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!