Dining with the Quality – Taking Yorkshire to the House of Lords

This article first appeared in the April 2016 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK.

As a restaurant reviewer, I’m always prepared to travel in search of that special meal and when the Yorkshire Society provided a rare opportunity to dine at the House of Lords back in February 2016, I needed little convincing. Here is my review of a rather unique evening.

Back in 2013, I took the opportunity to visit the Houses of Parliament, doing the full guided tour offered to members of the public. If you know that in my career as a Civil Servant I made the occasional visit to the building in my official capacity, this might sound surprising but the tour revealed parts of the building to me that I’d never seen before when there on business, so it was well worth the entry fee: the building simply oozes history with parts of it dating back to the eleventh century. The tour also proved fascinating for my partner whose ancestors include one of the stone masons, Timothy Peckett (born in Barnsley in 1819), who helped with the construction of what is the New Palace of Westminster after the fire of 1834 destroyed much of the former palace building. Timothy Peckett was recruited to work on the building because he had experience of working with the Yorkshire Stone from which the New Palace is built.

One thing that I never did when visiting with my work, was to have a meal there so when the Yorkshire Society announced that they would be holding a dinner at the House of Lords, I found it difficult to resist and purchased tickets for my partner and myself.

Now, my relationship with the Yorkshire Society is through Wakefield Civic Society as each organisation has reciprocal membership of the other. The Yorkshire Society is a not-for-profit membership organisation established in 1980 with the aim of encouraging businesses, charities and individuals, whether from Yorkshire or just based here, to join together in “promoting the county”.

My tickets duly arrived. Our official host for the evening would be Lord Kamlesh Kumar Patel of Bradford, OBE, one of the Yorkshire Society Vice Presidents, and we were to present ourselves at Black Rod’s Garden Entrance at the House of Lords for 7pm. Train tickets were ordered and a hotel was booked for the evening (talk about pushing the boat out!).

On the day, we travelled down to London and checked in to our hotel before setting out to do some sight-seeing. As luck would have it, by evening, the heavens had opened so we decided on a taxi – a tear-inducing extravagance in London!

It’s not every day that you have to go through airport-style security to gain admission to your dinner but the process was efficiently handled and we soon found ourselves in the Cholmondeley Room in the House of Lords rubbing shoulders with around 120 members and guests of the Yorkshire Society at a drinks reception. Many had travelled down from Yorkshire especially for the dinner (and it was good to count a few members of Wakefield Civic Society in their midst) but some had travelled from elsewhere, including some now resident in London. One particularly recognisable face was BBC Look North presenter, Harry Gration, another of the Yorkshire Society’s several Vice Presidents.

In due course, we were ushered into the Terrace Dining Room which gave commanding views across the River Thames. Seats were pre-allocated and we discovered that we would be in some very good company as we joined a table with Sir Rodney and Lady Walker (Sir Rodney is also a Vice President of the Yorkshire Society), Rod and Sheila Scholes (Rod is Treasurer of the Yorkshire Society), Wakefield business leader Margaret Wood MBE, as well as two people whom we got to know better over dinner – Karen Swainston and Caroline Pullich, both Yorkshire representatives of Barclays Bank.

Speeches were from Lord Patel, Sir David Wootton (the first Bradfordian to be Lord Mayor of London), businessman Ken Wootton (no relation but he and Sir David did both attend Bradford Grammar School), and Keith Madeley, MBE, chairman of the Yorkshire Society.

One of the mains reasons for the dinner was to mark the creation of a Yorkshire Society branch in London which will be chaired by Ken Wootton with Sir David Wootton taking on the role of President. Having a Yorkshire Society branch in London will not only provide a place of sanctuary for homesick Yorkshire folk but will also help to promote the interests of Yorkshire including its business and sporting achievements to a London audience, particularly to decision makers and influencers within government. As Lord Patel explained, if the Northern Powerhouse was to become a reality, there had to be a connection between the region and the Westminster village.

Now, and not forgetting my role here as a restaurant reviewer, I must turn my attention to the meal itself. This consisted of a three-course set meal starting with a double-baked cheese soufflé, followed by loin of venison with all the trimmings and then what was billed as a dark chocolate brûlée for dessert (it was closer to a chocolate mousse in reality – but still very enjoyable). Special diets were, of course, catered for and the vegetarians among us, me included, were presented with vegetable cannelloni. To finish, there was coffee and House of Lords truffles (the latter wrapped in little presentation boxes). Wine accompanied the meal and I’m pleased to report there was no stinting on the measures – which probably helped with the rather relaxed atmosphere and we were all in party mood as we left having had a truly marvellous evening in a splendid setting.

As we emerged into the late evening rain, my partner and I looked at each other and after some conferring, we agreed that we’d walk back to the hotel – no more expensive taxis for us. Well, we are from Yorkshire after all!

While dining at the House of Lords might require a specially organised event or a private invitation, you can enjoy a tour of Parliament and follow it with an afternoon tea on most Saturday afternoons throughout the year. See www.parliament.uk/afternoon-tea for more information.

Find out more about the Yorkshire Society at www.yorkshiresociety.org.uk or by emailing membership@yorkshiresociety.org.uk

In some secluded rendezvous; it was Cocktails for 2 at Create Café! (Actually, there were 48 of us).

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.

www.createcafewakefield.co.uk

Burton Street, Wakefield, WF1 2EB. (Enter either from Burton Street or Cliff Lane entrances to Wakefield One)

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

How Now, Brown Cow? The Brown Cow at Ackworth is under new management.

This article first appeared in the October 2015 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.

When TopicUK editor Gill asked me to find somewhere outside Wakefield for my next review, I sought advice from friends at Pontefract Civic Society and the Brown Cow at Ackworth was high on the list of the recommendations I received back. I was vaguely familiar with the establishment having visited the place a number of times in my younger days, but it’s been a very long time since I was last there (a very, very long time, in fact), so a return visit was long overdue and I booked a table for lunch.

The pub sits on a prominent, slightly raised, position on the Pontefract Road in the heart of the village. As you drive through Ackworth from the Wakefield direction, it is impossible to miss, being right on a bend in the road so it’s directly ahead of you as you drive towards it. Pull in just after the pub to access the ample car park at the rear of the building.

The Brown Cow is now under new management with a bright and friendly young team having taken over just a few months ago. Business partners Adam Wrightson, Kirsty Gillies, Dean Conway and Julie Gillies have been managing the pub since June this year. They already have experience in the licensed trade as they have been running The Angel pub, also at Ackworth, for the last eighteen months. They now split their time between the two pubs with Kirsty and Adam living in at The Brown Cow while Dean and Julie concentrate more on The Angel.

On the day of my visit, it was barman Hedley Conway welcomed me with a big smile – he knew I was coming to do the review and seeing the copy of TopicUK I was carrying was enough to cause the penny to drop. When I telephoned the pub ahead of my visit to book my table, I had explained that my dining companion and I were vegetarians so it was a pleasure to be told that the chef had created a vegetarian special for us to sample – a Provençale Vegetable Stew with Grilled Goats’ Cheese served with an Asparagus and Carrot Salad enlivened with homemade French mustard and vinaigrette. The pub caters well for vegetarians and there are always options available, including vegetarian specials. They can also cater for other special diets on request as food is cooked to order.

We chose a table by the window, drinks were ordered and shortly afterwards, the food was served. It looked good enough to eat and it was! Beautifully prepared and cooked to perfection, there was enough to satisfy the hunger pangs without over-facing us, which was important as we had to leave room for dessert. I settled for the old school dinners favourite of apple crumble and custard while my companion had the sticky toffee pudding, which also came with custard. Nice comfort food but not too heavy. Rounding off the lunch with coffee and mint chocolates, we relaxed and observed the comings and goings of the other customers.

Adam and Hedley were certainly kept busy as a number of people had followed us. Two chaps in the corner having what looked like a business lunch – all mobile phones and notebooks between courses, and a number of ladies were lunching, as well as what looked like a family group. Meanwhile, over at the bar, some locals had arrived for a pint (or possibly two – I wasn’t counting, honest!). Given its location in a village setting, The Brown Cow is of course something of a focal point for local residents and it was good to see the new enterprise being so well supported, even though one or two were clearly surprised and intrigued when I went through my usual routine of taking photographs of my lunch from every angle before tucking in.

The new management are keen to ring some changes; with chef Callum Gillies (yes, as you might have gathered, this is something of a family business), new dishes are being introduced and the menu given a more cosmopolitan feel, pub grub with a twist, you might say, but traditional favourites are there as well and it was notable that a number of the other customers had selected fish and chips for their lunch. If you fancy something off the specials board, you could try the Roasted Belly Pork on a Bed of Grain Mustard Mash and Savoy Cabbage served with Seasonal Vegetables which comes in at a very reasonable £9.95. Or how about Venison Steak served medium rare and accompanied by Creamy Mash, Sweet Onion Gravy and Seasonal Vegetables for £12.50? If that doesn’t tempt you, why not try something off the Tapas board where prices run from £2.50 to £4.50.

After my meal, I spoke to Kirsty and Adam. Since moving in, they have been giving some thought to what they can do with the place and have been discussing some refurbishment options with the owners, Enterprise Inns. These will be introduced slowly; at the moment, Kirsty and Adam need to consolidate their position and secure a good reputation for the quality of their food, drink and service with the local community as well as with the passing trade. As well as making changes to the menu, they are also introducing new beers – they were very proud of their bar which looked rather empty when they took over but now has three hand-pulled beers, three lagers, two ciders plus a bitter and, of course, Guiness which is on a ‘surger’ (a device that uses sound waves to produce the familiar creamy head on when Guiness is poured from a can; who knew?). Their favourite is the Black Sheep bitter although they do have a Yorkshire Blonde on the bar as well. They are also looking to improve the range of wines they offer.

With my interest in history, I had to ask about the pub’s back story. Over the bar there is an old black and white photograph of how the pub used to look. It was originally three cottages knocked through to create a pub. At some point, it was rebuilt as the building that exists today when it was originally run as a hotel. Although I didn’t take a look myself, Kirsty told me that the building was very spacious upstairs having five guest bedrooms and a function room. However, there are no plans at present to re-open these to the public as the upstairs is currently Kirsty and Adam’s private living. They are quite keen to learn more about the history of the pub, however, and are working with Ackworth Heritage Group to discover more about the building’s past: Ackworth is itself an interesting and historic place to explore with lots of attractive old buildings, so a post-prandial stroll could prove worthwhile. By the way, I was told that the name Brown Cow comes from a cow of that colour kept by the monks at nearby St Cuthbert’s Church and who always had very good relations with the pub……..I think that might be a story for another day.

We enjoyed our visit to The Brown Cow; the food was good and the hospitality genial. The new team deserves to do well. Why not make a date to see for yourself?

The Brown Cow on FacebookThe Brown Cow on Facebook

Pontefract Road, Ackworth, Pontefract, WF7 7EL

Valentino’s Ristorante Italiano, Outwood – A little bit of Italy in the afternoon

This article first appeared in the February 2015 edition of the Wakefield magazine TopicUK. Please check the restaurant’s website for updated details of menus, prices, opening hours, etc.

It was rather cold when my partner and I called into Valetino’s for lunch one Friday in the middle of January – in fact, so cold that there snow on the ground! So it was lovely to step inside and be met with a warm welcome from manager Sigita Pikturnaite. We’d only been to the restaurant once before, and that was on an evening when we had eaten a very good meal, so we were looking forward to seeing how it all came together at lunchtime.

For those of you who have not yet tried Valentino’s, the first surprise is just how deceptively large it is inside! The eye is immediately drawn to the large mural of the unmistakable Florentine skyline and its magnificent duomo. This mural completely covers the wall at the far end of the room and it was next to this that Sigita had reserved a table for my dining companion and me. Despite the cold weather, a number of people had ventured out to enjoy the lunchtime experience and it was nice to see this local restaurant being well supported.

Many of you will probably be familiar with this well-established restaurant, either because you’ve already eaten there or because you’ve passed it as you travel along the A61 Leeds Road between Outwood and Lofthouse. Opened some sixteen years ago by owners Afy Butt and Shahid Tarer, who wanted to provide locally-sourced food at affordable prices, the restaurant offers a comfortable environment in which to enjoy beautifully prepared food. The interior décor and furnishings certainly capture the look and feel of a typical Italian-style restaurant. To the left as you enter, there’s a well-stocked bar and seating area where people can relax and order a drink while they are waiting for their table at busy periods, and then, to the right is a spacious dining area with tables configurable for intimate dining à deux or for family and party groups.

Lunchtime opening is a relatively new facility in Valentino’s history, having been introduced only a couple of years ago. It is open Tuesday to Friday lunchtimes from 12 noon until 3 pm (last orders at 2.45 pm) and then re-opens at 5 pm until 10.00 pm for the evening service. At weekends, Valentino’s is open all afternoon from noon onwards ‘until late’. On Mondays, the restaurant is closed all day except for bank holidays when it is open as for weekends.

There are two main menus – a full à la carte menu which is available any time and a shorter lunchtime menu made up of lighter meals. Dishes on the lunchtime menu are very reasonably priced with starters costing around £3 to £4 and main courses from £4.95 to just over £8 with a selection of vegetables and salads available as side orders. Prices on the à la carte menu are a little higher, but with more generous portion size, but it’s still possible to have a three-course à la carte meal for around £20. You can, of course, choose courses from both menus if you wish. A children’s menu is also available. As you would expect, there is an extensive selection of wines and beers to choose from with bottles of wine starting at £13.95.

Not forgetting that we were there to sample the food, my partner and I agreed to try out both menus between us – my partner testing the lunch menu while I focused on the à la carte. I began with Warm Goats Cheese. This consisted of a flat cap mushroom topped with goats’ cheese and served with cherry tomatoes and basil dressing, one of my favourite dishes, and it was very good. My partner went for the simpler but no less appetising Insalata Caprese, a traditional dish of mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes and basil. To follow this, I plumped for the Porcini Ravioli while my partner had the Spinach and Ricotta Cheese Ravioli. Yes, you’ll notice we both had ravioli, but the dishes were very different as you might expect – my ravioli, from the à la carte menu was priced at £10.95, while my partner’s, ordered from the lunchtime menu, was just £5.65. There was no difference in quality but there was a difference in portion size and ingredients. However, we both professed ourselves very satisfied with our choices.
Actually, I had a wobbly moment just before my plate arrived! Making notes for this review, I spotted that, as well as a small ‘V’, there was also a small ‘H’ against my Porcini Ravioli on the menu. This apparently indicated that the dish would be hot and spicy – and I’m not keen on either hot or spicy! I went back and read the menu again and realised I should have paid more attention – the full description showed that I had just ordered “Pasta filled with porcini mushrooms with a creama truffle sauce – and chilli flakes”. In the end, I decided to stick with what I’d asked for and I’m pleased I did. Yes, I could taste the chilli, but it wasn’t so hot to be appreciable. I suppose that, had I wanted something truly hot and spicy, I could have been a tad disappointed so it might be worth discussing just how hot – or not – you want your pasta when you place your order.

To conclude our meal, we were tempted by the dessert menu (there’s one dessert menu, whichever menu you are eating your main courses from) with me choosing the Homemade Tiramisu and my partner the Crème Brûlée. Again, we both really enjoyed our choices. The Crème Brûlée was light and creamy, while the Tiramisu was rich and smooth. We rounded off with coffee, both in full agreement that the meal had been delicious.

Now, for those of you who like a bit of meat with your meal, both menus do, of course, offer a good range of meat and fish dishes, with the à la carte menu in particular providing a good selection of beef steaks as well as chicken dishes. The beef, we were told, is sourced from carefully selected farmers in the Yorkshire Dales, the Yorkshire Wolds, and The Vale of York, while the chicken comes from Harome, near Helmsley.

After our meal, I chatted to manager Sigita, who hails originally from Lithuania but has now been in the UK for ten years. With co-manager Lewis Jeffels, Sigita and her team want to provide a relaxed, welcoming environment for their customers and lunch can either be a leisurely affair or served a bit more quickly if you have to get back to work afterwards. Just make sure you tell the staff if you are short of time.

Sigita told me that the restaurant employs around 20 staff. While it is usually busiest in the evening, the decision to open at lunchtime was an obvious move for the owners; staff were working in the restaurant during the day anyway, prepping for the evening service, and they had the capacity to serve meals at lunchtime, taking advantage of the passing trade as well as providing somewhere to eat for the many local residents. Although about two and a half miles outside Wakefield city centre, the restaurant is easy to reach by car and public transport and there is ample free parking in front of the building.

If you’ve not tried Valentino’s yet, do give it a go – you’ll not be disappointed.

http://valentinoswakefield.co.uk

699 Leeds Road, Lofthouse Gate, Wakefield, WF3 3HJ