The Leopard - Town Pub of the Season
It was the venue for the first-ever meeting of Doncaster CAMRA in 1975. More recently it hosted our 40th anniversary celebration in July this year. Now it's been named as our Doncaster Pub of the Season for Winter 2015-16. Congratulations to licensee Adrian Smith and his staff at the Leopard.
Situated near Doncaster Interchange on the corner of West Street and St Sepulchre Gate West, the Leopard is one of Doncaster's remaining traditional pubs. With its distinctive Warwick and Richardson frontage, it's a listed building which for decades has doubled as a pub and a music venue. It has always featured cask ales and has often featured in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide.
In recent years the Leopard fell on hard times and actually closed for a while. The turning point came in summer 2014 when the lease was purchased from Enterprise Inns by Doncaster Catering, Conferencing and Events. DCCE had the pub extensively refurbished and it reopened in August that year, being officially opened by Simon Townshend ( Pete's brother ). It has gone from strength to strength ever since.
The reason for a CAMRA award is, naturally, the beer. The many CAMRA members (we estimate 80-100) who attended our 40th anniversary celebration on July 11th were impressed by the range and quality of what was on offer that day. To prove it, we got through eight 9-gallon casks of real ale that day. And later, when the voting was held for Pub of the Season, the Leopard won by a significant margin.
Five cask ales and a real cider are usually available at the Leopard, one of which is always from Sharp's Brewery (a term of the lease – the pub offers various other Coors products ). When I visited the pub to research this article, the beers on offer were Sharp's Atlantic, Pennine Brewery Good Try (this was during the Rugby World Cup ), Stancill Lucky No 7 and Springhead Outlawed as well as Weston's Old Rosie cider. The Leopard is a member of CAMRA's LocAle scheme so most of the time at least one locally brewed beer is available. And when gigs take place in the upstairs room a Doncaster Brewery beer is usually on offer.
There are plenty of good reasons to visit the Leopard. If you're into music, it's a stalwart of the steadily diminishing live circuit and deserves support for that reason alone. It caters for all tastes - indie, heavy metal, even Charlotte Church has played there! Weekly Open Mic sessions provide a valuable springboard for local bands. It's also unique among Doncaster pubs in having its own art gallery featuring the work of emerging artists.
The Old Market Hall, Mexborough - District Pub of the Season
The Old Market Hall in Mexborough has always been a well-known local landmark. It was opened on July 6 1880 by Joel Kirby. As the name suggests, the building was used as a market hall for over 100 years then, more recently, a bingo hall. In 2009 it was taken over by the Wetherspoons chain, thus this great building continues to serve the community of Mexborough. Wednesday night sees the very popular quiz. A lift offers easy access to the large open plan bar area.
Many of the original features of the building have been kept, giving the popular pub a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
The walls are adorned with historical pictures showcasing Mexborough and the surrounding areas, using interesting photographs and information of local celebrities.
The pub serves up to 6 continually changing quality real ales and cider in addition to the Wetherspoon permanent offerings, so there is normally a beverage to suit all tastes. It is also a promoter of CAMRA’s Locale scheme. The real ale has always been in good condition, thus gaining the Cask Marque award.
When I spoke to the manager Matt, he said how happy he was that The Old Market Hall had gained the award, and he was pleased that the award reflected the hard work of all of the team at Mexborough.
The pub caters for diners with an extensive Wetherspoons menu, which is reasonably priced.
With excellent bus and rail links very close by, the tastefully converted Market Hall has become a busy local hub for locals and visitors alike.