It was on the Isle of Capri that I found her…..

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

Readers will, I am sure, be familiar with the 1934 tango The Isle of Capri (music by Wilhelm Grosz, also known as Hugh Williams, and lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy) that tells of a thwarted romantic liaison. It was a popular song of the period, made famous by the likes of Al Bowlly and Gracie Fields. Some of you may, like me, have visited the idyllic island (to which Gracie Fields eventually retired). Set in the blue Tyrrhenian Sea off the east coast of Italy with views across the water to Naples, Sorrento and Mount Vesuvius, it’s a great place to relax and savour the flavour of Italian cuisine.

Well, on a cold wintry night in Wakefield, the idea of Capri might seem a long way away – yet it’s somewhat closer than you might think…..

Drive out of Wakefield on the A642 towards Huddersfield and, where Coxley Beck meets Smithy Brook at Horbury Bridge, you’ll find the subject of my latest review – the Capri Restaurant and Wine Bar.

This very popular restaurant has been recommended to me so many times that I’m almost ashamed to say that this was my first visit. However, my dining companion and I were warmly greeted by co-owners Paymen Karimi and his daughter Natalie (the third partner in the business is Paymen’s son, Dominik but he was busy cooking in the kitchen when we arrived, although I did meet him later in the evening).

If you’ve not been before, the restaurant is deceiving when you first arrive. Back in the 1950s, this was the site of the Woodcock’s Café run by the Woodcock family for many years. When Paymen acquired the building some twenty years ago it was very neglected and needed a lot of work to get things up and running. As the restaurant has grown in popularity, it has also grown in size with several extensions having been added over the years to create a suite of rooms including an upstairs private function room available for hire, and spaces for private dining. The restaurant now has capacity for 240 diners and employs some 37 staff!

We visited on a Monday evening. Now you don’t expect to see many people dining out early in the week but the Capri was surprisingly busy; there were a couple of family birthday celebrations in progress (the restaurant is definitely child friendly), while couples and small groups added to the mix, giving the place a lively and animated feel. The mood is relaxed and informal with the décor adding a touch of class – glitzy chandeliers and smart grey paint.

The menu is typically and reassuringly Italian (Paymen hails from Sardinia after all) and aims to provide “Excellence in classical and innovative Italian cuisine, using exquisite produce, influenced strongly by healthy eating”. It boasts a good selection of traditional pasta and pizza meals as well as house specials featuring chicken, duck, veal, fish or beef dishes. There was also a satisfying range of vegetarian options from which to choose. Prices are very reasonable with starters ranging from just over £4 and mains from just over £6 but be prepared to pay up to £19/£20 for one of the fillet steaks. Wine starts at £12.95 a bottle for the Vino del Casa (also available by the glass).

So, what did we have? Well, we started with Bruschetta Al Pomodoro for me and Insalata Tricolore for my companion. We followed that with the vegetarian Lasagne and Ravioli respectively and finished off with Panna Cotta and Crème Brûlée. The food could not be faulted. Nicely presented and cooked to perfection with reasonable portions (we came away feeling full but not overloaded). As the driver in this relationship, I had to content myself with a fruit juice but my companion pushed the boat out somewhat and had a glass of the house red, which I’m told was very palatable. We rounded the meal off with coffee as you might expect.

Coffees quaffed, I had a chat with Paymen who showed me around and told me something about the restaurant. As a separate part of the business, there is a take-away counter and they even run the Capri Home Dining service – where you can have food, freshly cooked from the restaurant, delivered to your home.

In addition to their regular seven-day-a-week opening, the restaurant also hosts special tribute nights on the last Tuesday night of the month. These are hugely popular and really need to be booked in advance – Paymen told me he had 180 people booked in for the Music of Motown night due the day after my visit. Ranging from ‘Sinatra to Robbie Williams, Blues Brothers to Cher’, these nights have proven to be a roaring success and customers can expect entertainment and dancing: it’s not unheard of for customers and staff to strut their stuff…!

It’s obvious that Paymen, Natalie and Dominik have found the recipe for a successful business and it’s one they intend to build on. They recently acquired the Vine Tree pub at Newton Hill. If you’ve driven past there recently, you’ll know it’s undergoing a major refurbishment and extensive building work is underway to create a new extension. This will be Capri 2 (the exact name has still to be decided upon) and is due to open early in 2016. Paymen is very proud of this new venture and talked me through his plans. He’s promised me an invitation to the opening night – so watch out for a review of the new venue very soon!

A final word about the Isle of Capri. I asked Paymen why he’d chosen the name Capri for his restaurant. Given his Italian origins, I had a romantic notion that the island might have played some significant part in his personal history. Alas, the notion was doomed. Paymen said that, while he had indeed visited the island many times, when he first set the business up, he had run a competition to select the name and it was drawn out of a hat!

http://www.caprirestaurant.co.uk/

223 Bridge road, Horbury, Wakefield WF4 5QA

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