This article first appeared in the February 2016 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.
If, ladies and gentlemen, you turn to your bookshelves and take down for a moment your copy of The Savoy Cocktail Book, you will be reminded (for I’m sure you already knew) that the term ‘cocktail’ has a somewhat cloudy and disputed etymology. It does seem likely, however, that the word has been in use for over two hundred years, which shows, if nothing else, the enduring popularity of the ‘mixed drink’.
There has been a definite resurgence of interest in cocktails in recent years, as I can testify! Regular readers of my articles will already be aware that I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the contents of a cocktail glass, so it was with a quickening pulse that I headed for Create Café recently to participate in a special event organised for members of Wakefield Civic Society’s Dining Club.
I’ve written in these pages before about the Society’s Dining Club, so I’ll keep the next bit short: the club was set up in 2010 and meets on the first Thursday evening of each month to sample the different eateries in and around Wakefield. At the end of each meal, members score their overall experience of the evening based on quality of the food and service, the value for money and the ambience, comfort and atmosphere of the establishment. At the end of the year, the Society awards its Restaurant of the Year Award to the place that was scored most highly by the members.
In November 2015, the Dining Club paid its first visit to Create Café, located on the lower ground floor of Wakefield One, the new civic building behind County Hall. By all accounts (sadly I missed it), they had a great time and there was something of a clamour from members to go back. Manager Shaun Mounsey proposed a rather special event for us – a Cocktail Master Class followed by a three-course meal, and all for just £25 per person. Needless to say, demand was high (we even had a few new members join the Dining Club!) and 48 people found themselves seated expectantly waiting for Shaun to dispense wisdom and cocktails in equal measure.
The event, which was exclusive for the Society’s Dining Club and guests as Create Café is not usually open on an evening, began at 6.30 pm and hush descended as Shaun began to explain the mysteries of the Citrus Squash, a vodka-based cocktail which made use of lime and lemon juice with a soda top. Shaun mixed a large glassful, poured over lots of ice (the trick, if serving your cocktail on the rocks, is to keep the drink chilled – use too little ice and it melts, diluting the drink). He gave that one to Dining Club organiser and Society treasurer Jean Broadbent to taste. Meanwhile, Shaun’s staff appeared with trays of quarter measure cocktails made to the same recipe for audience members to sample.
For his second cocktail, Shaun conjured up a Raspberrytini, a gin-based mix of raspberry purée, Chambord, lemon and sugar syrup. Again, the drink Shaun made was passed to a member of the audience (in this case, Angie de Courcy Bower, to mark a birthday) while everyone else was given a further quarter measure to taste.
The third cocktail, an Apple Core, was another vodka-based drink with, yes, apple purée, lemon, passion syrup and a lemonade top. The full measure was handed to a member of the audience (Kath Stringer, whose birthday was imminent, I think – by this time, I’d stopped paying complete attention!) while the rest of us tried our third quarter measure.
The final cocktail rustled up by our mixologist, was a rum-based Bajan Mojito. In addition to the rum, this contained, although not necessarily in this order, passion syrup, passion purée and lime juice, with a lemonade top. While audience members contented themselves with their fourth quarter measure sampler, Shaun handed me the Bajan Mojito he had made (fair’s fair: I also have birthdays and this research is thirsty work) and we adjourned to the dining tables set up for the meal. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the room took on an even more convivial glow…..
Now, to serve 48 people reasonably quickly, some preparation had been required. Dining Club members had been asked to pre-order their food from a special set menu with a limited number of options. To start, there was a choice of tomato and herb soup, served with fresh bread, or chicken and thyme terrine with pea and mint dressing and pea shoots. Main courses were herb-crusted pork loin with fondant potato and red wine jus, or beef shin rilette with fondant potato and red wine jus, or a parsnip risotto with parsnip crisp and Italian hard cheese. For dessert, there was either caramelized lemon tart with lemon mascarpone and lemon crisp or a sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce.
The food had been cooking while we were learning about the cocktails, so everything was ready and it was just a matter of identifying who had ordered which choices. Drinks orders were taken (the capacity of some remains undiminished although drinks taken with the meal were not included in the headline price and were charged separately) and the food was served: quality and quantity were just right.
All in all, everyone had a really enjoyable evening and I’ve no doubt there’ll be a return visit at some point. As I explained, this was a special event laid on for the Society’s Dining Club but Shaun would be happy to discuss evening opening for groups, so do get in touch. The Café occupies a large area and can accommodate bigger groups than ours if required.
Of course, you don’t have to be part of an organised group to enjoy the food available at Create Café. Why not pop along during the day and sample anything from a coffee and a bun through to a cooked meal? It’s a busy, vibrant place and great for networking. Being based in the council’s building and not far from Westgate Station, there are people popping in and out all the time and you never know whom you might bump into! You might even see me with a coach party just setting off to explore Wakefield on one of my guided walks!
Call in any day of the week and there will be a warm welcome from Shaun and his front of house team, Jon and Jake, as well as from head chef James and Tim, the regular back of house team.
Burton Street, Wakefield, WF1 2EB. (Enter either from Burton Street or Cliff Lane entrances to Wakefield One)