The Victoria Family & Commercial Hotel was built in 1865 as accommodation for people attending the courts at Leeds Town Hall. Almost 150 years later, the hotel area is abandoned (apparently left intact), but the pub downstairs is still prospering.
This is a real Victorian pub, with all the décor you’d expect. Great wooden booths for seating, a bar longer than some whole pubs, even amazing decorative tilework in the toilets!
As soon as you walk in you are greeted by an amazing entrance hall, and doors off to the three rooms (Bridget’s Bar, Albert Bar and Victoria Bar). Although all rooms have ‘bar’ in the name, only the Victoria Bar actually serves drinks. The other two rooms can be open to the public but usually they’re hired out (at no charge!) to one Leeds meetup or another. It seems like The Victoria is “the place to meet” for many local groups: when we were visiting, not only was one of the rooms reserved, there were meetings of some sort happening on at least 4 tables in the main bar area! Although it’s massive in here, it’s also very popular so sometimes it can get a bit crowded.
Like other Nicholson’s pubs, The Victoria specialises in real ale, and there are 8 or 9 ales on at any time. There’s a good variety of guests and regulars (Thornbridge Jaipur, one of my all-time favourites, is a regular here). The prices are reasonable too, with the most expensive ales selling at £3.50. There are no really decent bottles to speak of, but I did spy a good selection of single malts behind the bar. There’s also a large menu of pub food that isn’t pretentious or pricy.
The Victoria is one of those pubs that’s great for both pub-goers and non-pub-goers and I think this is why it lends itself so well to local meetups. You can get a meal, a good beer, and space to talk; and it’s very easy for people to find (“look for the building marked ‘Victoria Hotel’ in foot-high letters directly behind the Town Hall”). Here’s to another 150 years!