A week in West Yorkshire
Friday Opinion – Propel Newsletter – 5th August 2016
It was great to spend a week in West Yorkshire last week – going back to where you grew up is always an interesting lesson in contrasts. What was once a gastronomic desert is now teeming with places to satisfy even the most demanding of palates. Take Bingley where I went to school. It used to have lots of pubs, all of which were split firmly into two camps – pubs for school kids and pubs for old men. Fair enough, you could always buy pork scratchings, crisps and scotch eggs and we were never over challenged by not having a wide enough range of craft and cask beers, but they were generally pretty grotty.
Then JD Wetherspoon came into town and cleaned up all the drinkers like one giant hoover – it served them right. Now The Potting Shed has opened (owned by the Burning Night Group) and is attracting a totally different group of clientele. Timothy Taylor has also refurbished The Brown Cow post the disastrous Boxing Day floods, which saw four feet of water pouring into its ground floor area. It’s excellent and serves the best steak pie I have ever had (with chunky chips of course).
Or take Ilkley, which was always posh because it had a Bettys tea room. It didn’t have much else. Last week, I went to The Cow and Calf (a Vintage Inn) on Ilkley Moor (of “baht ‘at” fame) along with thousands of others and had a perfectly respectable, good value meal – I would go back. Le Bistrot Pierre in Ilkley is a regular haunt. I think this brand is a bit of a hidden gem that seems to have everything right – really friendly service, a consistently appealing menu and superbly presented food. With 16 sites to date (including the less obvious towns of Weston-super-Mare, Newport, Torquay, Leamington Spa and Derby), this is one to watch. Carluccio’s has just opened in Ilkley too to join the Olive Branch and Piccolino as exceptional places to eat. So it’s not yet a foodie heaven of a town but getting there.
Or take Skipton – gateway to the Dales. We used to stop here sometimes from a family day out on the way back from the Dales (and when we couldn’t afford a Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley) because it had lots of tea rooms (and the same old, same old pubs). Now you can’t move for really good places to eat, but my favourite has to be Filmore & Union on the high street. This is a wellbeing brand that doesn’t shout its credentials from the rooftop but quietly gets on with selling fantastic food and drink that tastes great and is good for you. It has eight sites in Yorkshire but could go far.
Or take Leeds. Huddersfield, Bradford, Wakefield and Leeds all used to be as bad as each another in terms of culinary delights but the latter has just catapulted over all the rest to become the best city in the north for eating and drinking (with Manchester of course a close second!). I love the newly opened Banyan from Arc Inspirations in the centre, the quirky but lovely Friends of Ham, and the wonderful Iberica with what must be the most sensational painted ceiling in any restaurant anywhere. The Greek Street area with the Liquorist (previously The Living Room), Gusto, a new hotel, a new Marston’s site, the Alchemist and Carluccio’s will be at its best within a few months and worth a visit.
Whilst I love the ever changing restaurant scene in London, going back home has served to remind me just how much the north, and West Yorkshire in particular, has changed – and significantly for the better.