This article first appeared in the February 2014 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. The restaurant has since closed but a new venture, Olive and Meze, has since opened at the same address.
“If it can be grilled, we can cook it!” – so said Laura Cheshire, one half of the husband and wife team behind one of Wakefield’s smaller restaurants – Grill Primal Kitchen, in Northgate (just off the Bull Ring). Boasting perhaps one of the narrowest frontages of any restaurant in the city centre it’s easy to miss but Grill Primal Kitchen stretches back from the street to accommodate up to 30 diners and the tables and seating are flexible enough to be arranged in just about any combination to cater for any size of group.
Some of you will know it as Grill! 31 but a recent internal makeover has given proprietors Laura and David Cheshire an opportunity to ring the changes both decoratively and on the menu. (The restaurant still carries the old name on the outside, but this is temporary matter and on the list headed ‘Things to do’).
Under its former guise of Grill! 31, the restaurant was voted one of Wakefield Civic Society’s Restaurants of the Year in 2012, so the refurbishment gave me a good reason to go back to see how things had changed.
Well, one thing that has most definitely not changed is the high quality of the food or the welcome you receive when you enter. The food is carefully and caringly prepared – the open archway through to the kitchen gave me a good view of David as he crafted each dish. The setting remains very informal and relaxed: as David says, “When people come into the restaurant, I want them to feel more as if they were coming to my home for dinner. Part of our enjoyment is the ability to interact with the customers and to talk to them about the menu and the food they are eating.”
Now, if you’re anything like me, once you’ve taken your seat, you’ll want to see the wine list. It’s ample and sufficient without being fussy or intimidating. A reasonably priced and very palatable house wine comes by the glass, carafe (or half carafe), while a selection or reds, whites and rosés can be ordered by the glass or the bottle. There’s also a Prosecco and various bottled beers and spirits.
The food menu, which is varied incrementally with some dishes being added or removed each month depending on what’s in season (and what people are ordering), comes, somewhat surprisingly as the centrefold of children’s annuals (yes, you did read that correctly). There’s a good mix of dishes with more than a passing nod to Cypriot cuisine. All food is prepared freshly to order which means that special dietary requirements can be easily catered for – just have a word with the chef – and there’s a special’s board as well.
To start your meal, you can choose from a good range of vegetarian, meat and fish dishes: you’ll find typical favourites such as Vegetable Keftedes (made with chickpeas onions and fresh herbs) and Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs). Other dishes include French Onion Soup with mature cheddar crouton; Grilled Chicken with bbq sauce; Fresh Catfish and Lobster Cakes with harissa salsa; and Fresh Beer-Battered Calamari with skordalia (garlic and potato) dip. Prices range from £4.95 to £7.95 – and portion size is generous. I can particularly recommend the Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad but it’s almost a meal in itself!
Main courses are either grilled over the fire pot or baked in the oven. Once again, there’s a varied selection of meat, fish and poultry dishes priced from £11.00 to £17.95 – although if you are up to the challenge, you can try “The 2 KiloMeater” a “72oz (or 2 kilogram) stack of prime Yorkshire rib eyes” for the rather princely sum of £58.95 (and there’s no sharing allowed!).
If you are not up to that, then you might prefer to try Marinated Chicken Breast Skewers with tzatziki & lemon for £11.00 or Grilled Baby Seabass served with skordalia for £11.95. From the oven, you could try Chicken ‘Saganaki’ baked with fresh tomato and feta cheese for £11.25 as one of my dining companions did – and thoroughly enjoyed. Do have a look at the full menu on the restaurant’s website.
At first sight, vegetarians appear to be less well-catered for – but don’t be put off by the fact there’s only one option on the published menu as David loves to be creative and will rustle up something special for you. It helps if you can give him notice when you book, of course! The Vegetable Layercake, made up of sliced courgettes, aubergine, sweet potatoes and tomatoes was most enjoyable – but ask for it without the chilli peppers if you’re not a fan of the hot and spicy!
I mentioned that portion size was generous when it came to the starters; well, this is a theme that is continued through to the main course and you might want to think about sharing any side orders you take a fancy to: priced from £2.50 to £4.75, these offer a selection of potato, salad, vegetable and rice dishes.
For me, no meal is complete without dessert but I have to say, I very nearly waivered! However, and purely in the course of duty, I managed a rather lovely limoncello cheesecake with raspberry purée. Whether it was strictly necessary to ask for the two dollops of ice cream that came with it, I shall leave others to judge! If you want to go there, desserts are all priced at £4.95.
Although David has worked at other restaurants, this is the first time that he and Laura have run their own place. They deserve to succeed! Supported by their four staff, they actually want to keep things small and cosy, re-emphasising the importance they place on the quality of the food and the service. It’s this personal touch that really matters to them: so much so that they have recently run fund-raising evenings for charitable causes and they would be pleased to speak to anyone wanting to organise such an event in the restaurant – just get in touch.
This restaurant has now closed down.