EVERY journalist dreams of their own Watergate moment, but sadly, my career hasn't thrown up such excitement thus far. So you can imagine my reaction when I was asked to review York's Watergate.

Of course what The Press meant was the newly-named hotel and bar on Walmgate: The Watergate Inn. Formerly known as the Five Lions, the Watergate reopened under the new name in March, following a refurbishment.

On first hearing the news of the name change, from a title drenched in York-history to an American political scandal; I feared a whitewash. After all, there was only one pub in the whole of the UK called The Five Lions, with it's name heralding from the York coat of arms itself. But I was soon reminded that change isn't necessarily a bad thing.

It's clear that Walmgate and Fossgate have more of a hipster feel these days, similar to that of Bishopthorpe Road. And the work carried out at the Watergate Inn shows that the business is clearly riding that wave of chic and not so shabby.

Throughout the pub you'll see unconventional touches, from a bar stool that would look at home in Downton Abbey, to a collection of quirky jars nestling on the mantle piece. On entry you'll see hops scattered tastefully above the bar - evidence that the new management team are as passionate about beer, as they are about selling it.

The beer selection itself boasts of the sweet Anglo-American DNA by Dogfish Head and Charles Wells, as well as the smooth Vienna-style Amber Lager from Wisconsin brewery Stevens Point (both bottled). On tap you'll see Heineken, Amstel and Carling, but standing out amongst the crowd of regular names is the English lager 'Freedom 4'.

This easy drinking and refreshing lager is one of the favourites amongst the Watergate locals, and for cask ale fans - or those doing the current York Camra Ale Trail - there are also Leeds Brewery options on tap.

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As I enjoyed a trusty pint of Leeds Pale Ale, in the disarmingly clean and relaxed front room, an enticing aroma of immense bar snackage landed. And what superb marketing this was. One of the chefs strolled out of the kitchen with a plate of freshly cooked sausage rolls and set them down out of reach, but within smell and sight.

He knew exactly what he was doing. It was old school, but it was flawless. I instantly checked the menu, and before I could remind myself of my summer diet, I was devouring a beautiful plate of roast pork chipolatas in wholegrain mustard.

I envisage the Watergate developing a reputation that will span beyond 'tavern' and into 'bistro' territory. From rump steaks to signature homemade quiche, it's not to hard to tell that these new managers aren't messing around here. They're serious about beer and food that doesn't tick the traditional boxes.

And like all good eateries, the Watergate offers different spaces across the pub to enjoy a bite. To the right of the bar you'll see a long and impressive piece of timber for those who want to digest the news as well as the food under the mounted TV. Towards the front you'll see the conversation-lovers basking in the light of the large front window.

There's no doubt that the atmosphere has most certainly changed within the new-look venue. For those passionate about beer, or those on a first date, the Watergate Inn has definitely adopted a more presidential approach for all.

 

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