A Brief History of Business in Wakefield

In 2015, I was asked to write a short history of Wakefield’s business-life for TopicUK magazine – which made sense given that the magazine is aimed at Wakefield’s businesses today. However, the word limit I was asked to work to – just 400 words, would barely scratch the surface, so it was agreed that I should write a series of articles. These are reproduced together here for the first time. I make no claim to be an historian – but I have read a lot of books and articles about Wakefield written by others including JW Walker, John Goodchild and Kate Taylor.

A Brief History

Look up in Cheapside, or Thompsons and Woolpack Yards, and you will see the vestiges of numerous hoists jutting out from the top of buildings; buildings that are now often smart offices but which were originally built as warehouses for storing grain and wool.

While Wakefield may be known today for its association with rhubarb, its early commercial activity was centred on textiles, agriculture and mining. Raw wool from the surrounding area was brought into Wakefield to be sold at market or to be processed – there were fulling mills (where wool is treated with detergents to remove the oil) along the banks of the River Calder and local weavers could use the treated wool to produce cloth. The Tammy Hall (between Wood Street and King Street) was built for the trade in cloths (a tammy is a type of worsted cloth), and opened in 1778. Unfortunately, the trade was relatively short lived in Wakefield as business moved to Leeds, Bradford and other places in the West Riding. The building was acquired by Wakefield Corporation who demolished part of it to create a site for the current town hall and converted what was left into a police and fire station.

Wakefield was, nonetheless, an important market town and administrative centre by the turn of the 19th Century. With good links by turnpike (toll) roads and, later, canals (the River Calder had been made navigable to Wakefield from around 1702), traders converged on the town to buy and sell raw materials, finished goods, grain and livestock: some readers will no doubt remember, for example, the cattle market that stood on Market Street (where the Royal Mail building is now) and which closed for business as recently as 1963, after nearly 200 years of operation. The Graziers pub on George Street takes its name from the men who grazed their cattle to get them ready for market.

What is perhaps less well known is that, before the coming of the railways in 1840, Wakefield had become a busy inland port: it was, of course, easier to carry large bulky loads by water than by road and the canals gave access to both the east and west coast ports so goods and materials were brought to Wakefield for onward transport, something which is still happening today, although nowadays principally by rail and road: witness Wakefield Europort and the many distribution warehouses located adjacent to the district’s motorway network.

Although by the 19th Century, Wakefield was a successful market town and inland port, by the middle of that century, it had started to lose ground to others as some of its traditional textile markets declined.
Fortunately, new businesses emerged in both the manufacturing and service sectors: yarn spinning, coal mining, brewing, brickmaking, soap-making, printing, glass-making and market gardening all flourished. The waterfront was busy with boat building and repair yards and the coming of the railways saw new markets developing as it became possible to bring more goods and raw materials into and out of the town.

Chemical works, engineering and rope making businesses were established or expanded. Joseph Aspdin’s cement works in Kirkgate invented Portland Cement. Some Wakefield businesses were successful enough to exhibit at the Great Exhibition of 1851 held in London in the Crystal Palace. In August 1865, Wakefield staged its own Industrial and Fine Arts Exhibition in a purpose built exhibition hall in Wood Street, attracting up to 10,000 visitors a day during the seven weeks of its opening.

These industries required people, creating job opportunities that led to an influx of working men and their families. Many of the people who moved here in search of work came from outlying rural areas and even further afield with many coming from Ireland. This incoming population had to be housed and catered for, in turn creating further commercial and job opportunities.

Meanwhile, the business of money – not just making it but keeping it safe and encouraging people to save – was ever more important and a number of independent banks were established. Some of these failed, merged or were taken over, yet they often leave their mark on the buildings we see around the city today. On the corner of Westgate and Bank Street are the former premises (now a night club) of banking firm Ingram and Kennet. They were taken over by Leatham, Tew and Company who had premises on the corner of Wood Street – look at the sun dial on the Marygate façade and you’ll see their initials. This building later became home to Barclays Bank after Leatham and Tew were amalgamated with that company. Meanwhile, the former Wakefield and Barnsley Union Bank had premises a little further up Westgate. The building may be yet another night club but the bank’s initials can still be seen in the arched pediment over the door. Other examples of former bank buildings include Bank House in Burton Street, now the offices of a firm of solicitors, but formerly the premises of the Wakefield Savings Bank.

A brief history of Wakefield as a centre for administration

No one knows for certain when people first started to live in what we now call Wakefield. There is some evidence of Stone Age activity in the area around Wakefield and a Roman road from Pontefract to Manchester came through Wakefield – fording the River Calder at the bottom of what is now Kirkgate, before branching off to the north and the west, roughly along the lines of the present day Northgate and Ings Road. We do know that the first written record of Wakefield (recorded as Wachfeld) appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 by which time it was already one of the largest manors in the country.

It is thought that the area was first settled by the Angles in the 5th and 6th centuries and that the name Wakefield is derived from the name of a prominent Anglo-Saxon chieftan by the name of Waca (literally meaning Waca’s field). After the Viking invasions of the 9th century, the land under Viking control (known as the Danelaw) was divided into administrative areas called shires. The county shire of York was further divided into three ridings (literally meaning a thirding) and these ridings, were subdivided into wapentakes which took their names from the principal places that were used for village meetings (or moots). Wakefield was part of the Wapentake of Agbrigg and Morley (which was later split into two). This indicates that the main meeting place of the wapentake in Wakefield was actually at Agbrigg, rather than in what we would regard as today’s city centre.

Following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror (himself of Viking descent) set about bringing the country under Norman control. It was he who commissioned the creation of the Domesday Book, actually a great survey that would be used by the crown to calculate taxes. Although not completed until after the king’s death in 1085, the book records the ownership of all lands, buildings, livestock, meadows and woodlands, as well as details of the people whether they be landowners or tenants, free men or slaves.

The Manor of Wakefield was granted by William II to William de Warrenne, created first Earl of Surrey, probably in 1088. The Earl, who died later that year, had supported William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and had been loyal to the king’s son, William II. Possession of the Manor, and responsibility for its administration, passed down the de Warrenne line and it was they who built Sandal Castle in the 12th century, originally in wood but later consolidated in stone. (They also built another castle at Lowe Hill, now in Wakefield park, but this was abandoned shortly afterwards).

Although the de Warrennes did not spend much time at Sandal castle, they did install Constables to keep the peace (the castle also housed a gaol) and to administer the area on their behalf.

The Manor returned to the control of the crown in 1347 with the death of the seventh Earl of Surrey who had no legitimate heirs but the castle retained its function as an administrative headquarters until Tudor times. However, with the rebuilding in the Moot Hall in upper Kirkgate in the first half of the 16th century (during the reign of Henry VIII) as a place for the Steward of the Manor to live, and the building of a new prison in Wakefield in the 1590s, administrative matters moved away from the castle and into the town centre.

Wakefield – A regional centre for over five hundred years

As well as being an established centre for local administration and commerce, Wakefield has a long history as a centre for regional administration. Indeed, Wakefield can claim to have played its part in regional government for over five hundred years.

In 1472, King Edward IV, England’s first Yorkist king, established the Council of the North to implement better government control and administration of the north of England and to bring about economic growth within the area. The Council of the North was firmly rooted in Yorkshire. Originally based at Sheriff Hutton Castle and Sandal Castle (just over a mile from today’s city centre) and later at King’s Manor in York, it had jurisdiction over all six of the northern counties that existed in England at that time, viz. Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumberland, Westmorland, Durham and Northumberland. One of its principle functions was to restore law and order and impose the impartial justice of the crown in the northern regions. In fact, the Council’s main purpose over time was to evolve into being that of a recognised court, with social and local administration being left to the church, local councils, guilds and JPs. The Council was abolished in 1641 but Wakefield was to continue its involvement in regional matters.

As we saw in my last article, following the Viking invasion of the 9th Century, Yorkshire had been divided into three parts, or Ridings, for administrative purposes. However, until the 1832 Reform Act, it was the County of Yorkshire that was represented in Parliament (by just two MPs). The 1832 Act divided the county into three parliamentary constituencies for the first time and these were based on the North, East and West Ridings with each of the three resulting constituencies being represented by two MPs from in the years between 1832 and 1865.
In 1865, the constituency of the West Riding was further divided into those of the Northern West Riding of Yorkshire and the Southern West Riding of Yorkshire, each with two MPs. Further changes introduced by the Local Government Act of 1888 established an administrative boundary centred on the West Riding and led to the creation of the West Riding County Council (WRCC) to administer it. The new County Council came into being in 1889.

To begin with, the WRCC met at the recently opened Wakefield Town Hall in Wood Street at the invitation of the then Wakefield Council, but it was not long before the WRCC started looking for accommodation of its own. The WRCC already owned Rishworth House, a Georgian house built in 1812 with a large garden, situated on the corner of Cliff Parade and Bond Street. Although there was a debate at the time that could have led to the new headquarters being sited in Leeds, it was decided to erect the new council building in Wakefield, cementing Wakefield’s reputation as a regional centre for another hundred years.

Rishworth House was demolished and in its place rose the building that we now know as the County Hall. Built in the Renaissance style with Art Nouveau decorative treatments, construction of County Hall commenced in 1894 with the building officially opened in 1898. It was the first of Wakefield’s civic buildings to be wired for electricity. The building was extended between 1912 and 1915.

The WRCC continued in operation until local government reorganisation saw county councils being abolished. It was replaced by the newly created West Yorkshire County Council in 1974 (with a different geographical area). When that organisation was itself swept away following yet more local government reorganisation in 1986, County Hall was put up for sale. It was subsequently acquired by Wakefield Metropolitan District Council in 1987. Wakefield Council now uses the council chamber in County Hall for meetings of the District Council, as it is a larger space than the former council chamber in the Town Hall (the Kingswood Suite).

As the above potted history demonstrates, when it comes to regional government, nothing seems fixed for long. Politics, economics and population growth drive constant change. Although the West Yorkshire County Council was abolished in 1986, it seems as if we might be coming full circle in some respects. There is now a West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), established in April 2014, which brings together the councils of Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York as well as the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to create a united force for economic growth. It is currently chaired by Councillor Peter Box CBE, leader of Wakefield Council.

And with the possibility of elected mayors for city regions also under discussion, it seems we may have not yet seen the end of the changes in our regional government. It would be nice to think that Wakefield will continue to play its part in whatever political and administrative structures emerge.

José’s Tapas Restaurant – “where friends meet to eat”

This article first appeared in the March 2017 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.

There are some obvious benefits to being a restaurant reviewer. That I get to try out different restaurants and taste all kinds of delectable food goes without saying, of course, but, in what is now nearly four years since I started writing these reviews for TopicUK, I have also had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful people, from restaurant proprietors and managers, to the chefs and waiters without whom no restaurant could succeed.

In my reviews, I often make reference to how cosmopolitan Wakefield has become over recent years with many and varied culinary delights from around the world being available and yet, somehow, I haven’t before managed to fit in a review of a Spanish restaurant. That is an omission I can now correct following a recent visit to José’s Tapas Restaurant.

Now, regular restaurant goers in Wakefield may well have met the proprietors, husband and wife José and Sofia Escribano before – they used to have a restaurant at Newmillerdam and José has worked in a number of restaurants, both in the city and in Leeds, including Rinaldi’s and Bella Roma, before opening this newest venture in Cross Street, Wakefield. As his name suggests, José hails from Spain where his home city was Madrid, although he has been in the UK now for 37 years. Sofia meanwhile, was born in Leeds but to an Italian mother and Hungarian father.

On the night we visited, Sofia was front of house, supported by waiters Maria and Franklin. While Sofia sorted out our orders, José took charge in the kitchen with Paco, the second chef, helping to prepare meals for a steady stream of customers throughout the evening. Sofia was keen to impress that the restaurant, although bearing José’s name above the door was very much a family affair. Their son, Richard, had worked up the business plan and even done some of the fitting out while other members of their family – daughters Maria and Elizabeth and son Jonathan, along with daughter-in-law Liz – all helped out. Sofia even pointed to the table cloths and said that her mother had helped with the stitching and hemming. As well as family involvement, José and Sofia have a team of six staff to call on.

As the name suggests, this is the place to come for tapas. The last time I dined there, it had been with around 30 members of the Wakefield Civic Society Dining Club on an evening when we had taken over the whole restaurant and Sofia and José had organised a sampling menu where members were invited to try out lots of tapas dishes – and there really is a good mix to choose from, with over 20 different tapas listed on the menu, including ones with chicken, chorizo, ham, prawns and anchovies.

For the purpose of this review, there were just two of us but, as both my partner and I are vegetarian, we dispensed with the menu and left it to Sofia to make recommendations for us. She did explain that the secret with tapas was not to order too many dishes – she recommended that around five or six sharing tapas dishes would probably work for two people – there was always the option of ordering more later on, of course, if appetites allowed. You can see the menu on their website – and it’s worth taking a look beforehand.

Our meal started with pitted marinated olives (José marinates his own olives so that they are not too salty), bread and cheese, mushrooms in garlic and olive oil, tortilla (Spanish omelette – very light and fluffy!), tomatoes and asparagus, and some slightly spicy potatoes (when I say spicy, it was nothing we couldn’t handle!). There was also a basket of bread with butter to accompany.

For our main courses, José, knowing that we were vegetarian as I had mentioned this to him when I booked our table, had prepared a butternut squash for us, served with lightly roasted tomatoes and sauce. This was followed by a lovely vegetable paella for us to share.

At this point, I was ready for a lie down – the food was simple but delicious and each dish visually and aromatically appealing but there comes a time when the belt needs to be undone a notch. It was just then that Sofia asked me if we would like dessert..….at first, we declined, but our will was weak and before we knew it we found ourselves eating a creamy and fruity lemon cheesecake, although we did have just the one between us: there are limits!

Since opening, the restaurant has featured regularly at the top of the TripAdvisor customer reviews for Wakefield and has proved very popular with the Wakefield public. Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch from 12 noon until 2 pm and then again in the evening from 5.30 pm until 9.30 pm, the restaurant can also be booked for private parties on Sundays and Mondays. Whenever you are planning your visit, it’s always advisable to book to avoid disappointment, especially at busy times such as Friday and Saturday evenings, and do remember to pass on details of any special dietary requirements at the time of booking. The restaurant can serve vegetarian, vegan and gluten free dishes but it always helps to let them know in advance if you can.

We had a really enjoyable evening with José and Sofia and had plenty of time to chat with them between courses. It was clear that they are passionate about the food they serve and that they are really proud of what they and their family are doing. Their enthusiasm really does shine through!

But don’t just take my word for it: go in and see it for yourselves!


9-11 Cross Street, Wakefield, WF1 3BW

Eastern promise: Street Food offers diners a blend of Iranian and Turkish delights!

This article first appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.

Over the last few years, there’s a part of Wakefield that has become a sort of ‘restaurant central’ for the city centre. Walk down Northgate from Rishworth Street towards the Bull Ring, turn right and right again and walk up Wood Street. Then turn right down Cross Street and re-enter Northgate. You’ll have walked around a third of a mile. But count the restaurants as you go – how many do you think you’ll see? 5? 6? 7? Believe it or not, you’ll actually find over a dozen restaurants in this relatively small area, and that’s not counting the cafés, the takeaways and the pubs that serve food.

In the last edition of TopicUK, I wrote about one of Wakefield’s newest restaurants, the New York Italian Kitchen on the corner of Cross Street and Northgate. Having ‘filed my copy’ I went off on holiday. When I came back, well, knock me down with a feather, but I quickly spotted that yet another new restaurant had opened its doors – this time one called Street Food which is also to be found in Northgate in a converted retail unit next door to what was, until recently, Wakefield’s main post office.

Not surprisingly, given my task here is to review the city’s restaurants, I toddled along to make an appointment to view and proprietor Paul Wiper and I fixed up a date for me to dine at the restaurant. With notebook and camera in hand, I turned up at the agreed hour to set about sampling the fare.

As I said, this is a former retail unit – formerly part of a carpet shop. Well, the carpets have gone and Paul has given the shop a complete makeover to achieve a stripped back, almost industrial look. The kitchen area is front of house and an integral part of the restaurant area, so you can see what’s cooking and how it is being cooked. Large plate glass windows all round add light and give diners uninterrupted views of what’s happening in the streets outside. At night time, the restaurant sheds a warm glow onto the pavement enticing you to enter. If you do, you’ll not be disappointed!

The food is a mix of Mediterranean and eastern dishes with a tilt towards Iranian and Turkish flavours. You’ll find charcoal grilled kebabs, lamb chops and halloumi along with stuffed vine leaves, roasted aubergine and hummus. Greek salads and Turkish breads also appear on the menu. Talking to owner Paul, I learned that he had long held an aspiration to run his own restaurant but wanted one that would serve his favourite foods, something he has certainly achieved here. The restaurant is also a complete change from his usual day job selling power and construction tools.

On the night we visited, my partner and I were greeted by lead waiter Sedat and fellow waiter Tyler. A number of tables were already occupied and people were clearly enjoying their meals; word obviously travels fast on this street. Menus were offered and we made our choices. Vegetarians are well catered for in the selection of starters but mains are mainly meat or fish based. However, let Sedat know if you want a vegetarian main course and he will offer you a mezze platter made up of a number vegetarian treats. We opted for two starters each and dessert (a home-made and traditional Turkish baklava, made by Sedat himself) and were well satisfied. There is also a self-service salad bar.

Street Food is described on its Facebook page as a “bright and contemporary restaurant serving eastern cuisine” offering a “relaxed and friendly atmosphere with fresh kebabs and cocktails. What more can you ask for?” Well, I can confirm that this description rings very true: the food we ate was well presented and beautifully cooked; the service was relaxed, informal and unhurried. What more could you ask for indeed!

One thing I’ve not mentioned yet is the prices. Street Food has to be offering some of the best value dishes in Wakefield at the moment. Starters cost from £2.50 and go all the way up to £4.50 while main courses range from £7.80 for charcoal grilled chicken breast pieces served with Turkish bread and salad, up to £9.80 for charcoal grilled lamb served with chips and salad. Desserts are just £2.70 for the baklava or, for the same price, there’s a traditional Iranian sponge flavoured with rose water and cardamom. Or if you want to splash out, there’s a chocolate fudge cake with fresh cream for only £3.50.

This extraordinary value for money also extends to the drinks and beverages – a post meal coffee comes in at £1.95 and a bottle of house wine can be had for a very reasonable £11.50.

Street Food is open seven days a week from 11.30 am until 10 pm Mondays to Saturdays and from 12 noon until 9 pm on Sundays.

It’s early days yet for this restaurant but I noticed that it’s already receiving good on-line reviews from customers. With this sort of value and quality, I have no doubt that Paul and his team of 8 staff will continue to win support from the public.

So there it is, and if you didn’t know already, the word on the street right now just has to be Street Food!

Street Food on Facebook

Unit 2, Trend House, Northgate, Wakefield

Sizzling! A new menu, a new name and a new look greet diners at Restaurant 85 at Cedar Court Hotel, Wakefield.

This article first appeared in the September 2016 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.

Many readers will have visited the Cedar Court Hotel, just off junction 39 of the M1 on Denby Dale Road, over the years. Whether for business or pleasure, a work do or a family occasion, the hotel has been home to many a function and celebration since it opened and has become something of an established institution in the city.

Now, the hotel is undergoing a major refurbishment with over half a million pounds spent so far. Many of the public areas have been transformed and two thirds of the bedrooms have already been upgraded with more to follow over the next couple of years.

Part of this transformation has seen the bar, lounge and restaurant areas given a complete reworking to create a light, airy and connected space, decorated in a contemporary style. The restaurant, which is open to non-residents, has been re-branded as Restaurant 85 in tribute to the year when, 31 years ago, the hotel first opened. With the re-brand comes a new menu which includes the ‘Hot Stones’ option – where you get to cook your steak to your own liking at your table on a slab of, yes, you guessed it, hot stone.

I visited the restaurant at the beginning of July with around twenty members of Wakefield Civic Society’s Dining Club to check things out for myself. This was a ‘special’ night that had been arranged for us by the hotel, a Silver Corporate Member of the Society, in recognition of the long-standing relationship between the hotel and the Civic Society.

As I’ve said before in these pages, satisfying all our Dining Club members can be a challenge but it was one that Restaurant 85 rose to admirably. With plenty of space available in the restaurant, they had arranged for us all to sit at one large table, which certainly helps conversation to flow, overlooking the planted terrace area. It was a warm evening and the doors to the terrace were open so we were able to step outside and admire the setting, although a sudden downpour did have us scurrying back inside moments later!

Welcome drinks of Prosecco and sparkling Elderflower pressé were served as we took our seats and we were introduced to our chef, Jamie, and Jacob, our lead waiter for the evening.

As we were quite a large group, members had been asked to email their orders in advance and we chose from three starters, three mains and three desserts. Starters were Cream of Watercress and Spinach Soup; Whipped Goat’s Cheese, with honey, walnut and salt-baked beets, with a pesto dressing; and In-house slow-cooked Chicken Terrine, Caesar style, grana padano and anchovy dressing. I chose the goat’s cheese dish, light and full of flavour, but the consensus was that all three options were delightful.

For the main course, around half the group opted for the 8oz-Rib Eye Steaks, on ‘Hot Stones’. These were served with plum tomatoes, garlic and thyme-roasted flat mushrooms and a generous portion of herb-crumb, hand-cut chips, and dressed baby watercress together with a choice of butter (Café de Paris, Garlic or Paprika). As people started to cook their steaks on the hot stones, the room filled with sizzling sounds, steam and not a little smoke – as well as much laughter and chatter. The steaks certainly brought the table to life! If you’d prefer it, the chef will, of course, cook your steak for you in the kitchen. Just state your preference when you order.

Meanwhile the rest of us had chosen from either the vegetarian Pumpkin Ravioli, in nut brown butter with toasted seeds and baby leaf salad, or the Char-grilled Chicken with chorizo, kale, new potatoes and olives. These were cooked for us by the chef in the kitchen – cooking ravioli ourselves on hot stones might have proved a little messy!

Desserts were a warm Yorkshire Curd Tart with vanilla bean ice cream; or Dark Chocolate Brownie with honeycomb ice cream; or Yorkshire Strawberries with cream.

We concluded with coffee and the settling of the bill, made easier because we had agreed a set price for everyone, so no calculators were required.

As I’ve explained before, one of the things we do as a Dining Club is to score the overall experience each time we meet – not just the quality of the food but also the service, value for money and atmosphere. Final scores are kept as a closely guarded secret by Civic Society treasurer Jean Broadbent until the year end when the Society announces its ‘Restaurant of the Year’ Award. Jean doesn’t let on what the scores were for each night until the year-end reckoning but I understand that the scores for Restaurant 85 were very good. Certainly, from talking to fellow diners, all seemed happy with their experience and were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and the excellent service we received.

For those whose curiosity is piqued, have a look at the hotel’s website where you can download a copy of the new menu. Here you will see that prices are very reasonable with starters costing from £4.50 to £7.00 and main courses from just £10.00 to £18 for the rib-eye steak, somewhat less than you might expect for a hotel restaurant.
Of course, the restaurant isn’t just open on an evening. It’s a great place for lunch as well and I hear they do rather lovely afternoon teas which can be taken in the restaurant and lounge areas with prices starting at just £11 per person.

Meanwhile, the bar and lounge provide a bright, comfortable place to meet up during the day offering a full bar menu of soups, sandwiches, light meals and homemade classics daily. It’s also a great place for a relaxing pre-dinner drink area in the evening.

And with ample free parking available, there’s really no excuse for not re-acquainting yourself with the Cedar Court Hotel!


Sleights of Hand and culinary magic – mystery and wonderment at Orlando’s Italian Restaurant

This article first appeared in the July 2016 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.

I still don’t know how he did it. Standing just inches away from me, Orlando Gubbini, experienced restaurateur and, it turns out, accomplished magician, managed to turn Kings into Aces before my very eyes! It was at that point that I realised this was going to be an interesting evening and one unlike any other I have so far written about in this series.

My mission when I am asked to write these reviews is to report back on the food and service at the various establishments I visit and to give an account of the overall experience to be enjoyed should you choose to follow in my footsteps (or, more likely, tyre tracks).

For my latest review, I was asked to visit Orlando’s Restaurant at Grange Moor – around 9 miles out of Wakefield city centre on the way to Huddersfield. As such, it was a bit off my well-beaten track but I’m always keen to explore so two of us took ourselves off, heading west along the A642.

The restaurant is set back from the main road behind a large carpark and has open views to the rear over open countryside. On entering the building and being shown to our table, I was reminded by the décor of the many traditional trattorias I have visited on my travels in Italy. With the windows open and the sun gently settling towards the horizon, it even felt a bit like Italy!

Our orders were taken and shortly after we were presented with fresh bread and tomato dip to nibble on along with our drinks while we waited until the starters arrived. It was at this point that proprietor Orlando approached with his pack of cards. Showing us four cards, two revealed to be black Kings, and two face down, he shuffled them and asked us what we had seen. Two black Kings, we replied! Not so, he said to show us to red Kings but with two cards still face down. Obvious, we thought – he’s just reversed the cards and we’re not so easily fooled! But then came the master piece – he turned all four cards over to reveal four Aces and no Kings! And it wasn’t as if he’d had something hidden up his sleeves – he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt!

Time to eat as our starters arrived – one serving of Mozzarella Carrozza (deep-fried mozzarella cheese in bread crumbs, served in a tomato and basil sauce) and one of Triangoli Di Formaggio (golden deep-fried brie served with cranberry sauce – a particular favourite of mine). These were generous portions and rather lovely.

As we ate, we watched Orlando and his team of kitchen and serving staff as they looked after their customers for the evening. The restaurant, which can accommodate up to 65 diners, employs three chefs and the kitchen opens out on to the restaurant, so you can see the staff working hard preparing the food you have just ordered.

In between attending to his customers’ culinary requirements, Orlando moved from table to table performing more of his magic tricks, to the bewilderment of the adults and the delight of any children present: prestidigitation, or legerdemain if you prefer, goes down well here! Orlando is a member of the Huddersfield Circle of Magicians (find out more at www.huddersfieldmagic.co.uk), but he wasn’t giving anything away about how he did his tricks.

For our main courses, my partner and I had the Cannelloni Vegetariana and the Tortellini Ricotta; simple authentic Italian-style food that was freshly prepared, nicely presented and a joy to eat. I needed a slight pause after that before I could face dessert so took the opportunity of asking Orlando something about himself.

He told me that he spent the first fifteen years of his life living in France and then moved to live in Italy. Having attended catering school, he has spent his career working in the catering and hospitality trade – from working on cruise lines and as a plane steward, to running the café at Hampson’s Garden Centre, first in Huddersfield and then in Wakefield.

Fifteen years ago, he acquired what had been a Little Chef café on the Wakefield Road at Grange Moor and opened his restaurant with his wife Caroline. (One of the reasons Orlando gave for choosing the location was that it was half-way between his former customers from the Huddersfield and Wakefield gardens centres.) The café had originally built in wood but Orlando was to demolish that building to erect the more substantial structure that is there today.

Somehow, I managed to find room for a dessert and opted once more for a traditional Italian favourite – a light and creamy Tiramisu – before ending with a coffee.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening. Prices are very reasonable – starters from under £4 and mains from under £8 (but going up to over £20 for the top-end fillet steak dish). There is also a set menu for £13.95 including a glass of wine and a children’s menu. On Thursday evenings, Orlando has reintroduced a popular Tapas option – only £17.95 for two people which includes seven dishes. As you would expect, there’s a good selection of wines and beers to accompany your meal.

So, that’s Orlando’s for you. If you’ve not been before, it’s well worth a visit. Good food, great hospitality and, of course, it’s magic!


5 Wakefield Road, Grange Moor, Wakefield, WF4 4DS