The Cow Shed, North Gate, Wakefield
We’re in Wakefield for just one night – Philip’s working here tomorrow – and, of course, we need to eat. A Facebook request yields plenty of recommendations from locals – for a small town, Wakefield certainly boasts more than its fair share of restaurants. But one place crops up in almost every response: The Cow Shed on North Gate. We check out the menu online and decide it’s a go-er, so we book ourselves in.
My parents drive over to spend the evening with us, and the four of us are soon ensconced at a table in the beautiful old grade 2 listed building, which – we learn – was the inspiration for Joanne Harris’s acclaimed novel Chocolat. It’s all white walls and wooden beams, yet with a contemporary rustic vibe. (Those who need an accessible loo should be aware, however, that the facilities are all upstairs.) There’s an early-bird set menu on offer and, as it’s Monday, we don’t even have to be early birds to enjoy it: it’s available all evening. There’s plenty to choose from, so we decide to make the most of it.
I start with the roast pepper and plum tomato grilled goat cheese with basil oil and wild rocket, which is absolutely delicious. It looks lovely, the red and white offset by a bright green basil oil, and it tastes divine, all sweet pepper and salty cheese. Philip has the fine bean, snow pea and anchovy salad with soft boiled eggs and pronounces it perfection on a plate. Mum’s a bit under the weather and not so hungry, so she skips the starter but Dad’s chicken liver and mushroom paté is so generously proportioned that he easily eats enough for two; it’s accompanied by toasted ciabatta, mixed leaf and onion marmalade. He declares himself a happy man.
Philip’s main course is the standout: a char-grilled chicken breast with button mushrooms, savoy cabbage, smoked pancetta and a white wine cream sauce. There’s depth of flavour here, and some real skill evident in the cooking of that sauce. My pan roasted cod fillet, wrapped in parma ham, is robust and well-cooked, served with a delicate pea purée, sautéed potatoes and pea watercress velout. It’s very nice indeed, and Mum has the same, but Dad goes for the 8 oz rump steak, which is also excellent, particularly considering the keen pricing here. He struggles to finish it after his large starter but persists manfully to the very last mouthful.
Mum eschews pudding – she clearly has more willpower than the rest of us combined. For us, the selection on offer defies resistance, and Philip and I both yield to the temptations of a warm rhubarb and ginger pudding with vanilla ice cream. It’s real comfort food: all warmth and spice and deliciousness. Dad goes for the sticky toffee pudding. He seems to have an unerring eye for the plus-sized dishes; this one is swimming in more toffee sauce than we’ve ever seen on one plate before. Maybe he just looks like he needs feeding up? I sample a spoonful and it’s every bit as accomplished as the rest of the food on offer here.
It’s a school night and we’re being good so we don’t even look at the wine list. There’s a decent range of teas and coffees though, and we’re more than happy with what we’ve had. If you’re in Wakefield and in need of sustenance, this place is well worth checking out. Thanks to everyone who recommended it.