Simon Richardson takes us on a whirlwind gastronomic tour of his local surroundings
One of the best things about living in Calderdale is being in the middle of some truly stunning countryside, but without the tourist influxes that other areas with National Park status have to deal with. For me, this means glorious, secluded runs to beauty spots with awe-inspiring views like Stoodley Pike, Norland Moor, or Hardcastle Crags – often without seeing a single soul.
Of course, the common downside to such sparsely populated rural areas is often a lack of *flaps hands around vaguely* stuff. But over the last two years, I’ve discovered that Calderdale doesn’t have this issue. In fact, it’s a bit of a foodie destination. Don’t believe me?
Feast your eyes (and stomachs) on these places to eat and drink in Calderdale.
The Moorcock Inn, Norland
Let’s start with my local, shall we? The Moorcock recently placed 14th in the National Restaurant Awards and is my undisputed happy place. Its moorland setting is stunning but often leaves people assuming it’s difficult to get to – it’s actually only a 40-minute stroll from Sowerby Bridge train station, with a great view to pass the time. Chef Alisdair specialises in live fire cooking, smoking, and pickling, with some truly spectacular rare breed meat dishes and seafood, along with some smoky vegetable wizardry. Texture is king here, and every dish is a surprise. Add that to Aimee’s considerable wine and beer knowledge (the drinks list is like an epic novel), and you’ll never want to leave.
The Moorcock Inn, Moor Bottom Lane, Norland HX6 3RP
Engine Social, Sowerby Bridge
Speaking of Sowerby Bridge, you’d be a fool to visit without booking yourself into Engine – and you do need to book if it’s a weekend. The menu changes regularly, focusing on small plates with Mediterranean influences in a laid-back, modern setting. Recent highlights include Moroccan pulled lamb, red curry cod fritters, and some seriously juicy chorizo, along with a wine list to suit all budgets and a great kids’ menu. Another one of my regular haunts.
Engine Social, 72 Wharf St, Sowerby Bridge HX6 2AF
Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax
From two Michelin Guide restaurants to one with two AA rosettes, Shibden Mill Inn found itself right next to the Moorcock in the recent Estrella Damm Top UK Gastropubs list (it’s also only six miles away geographically). It’s a gorgeous 17th-century building surrounded by greenery, with 11 rooms and almost as many different menus, the pick of which is the £65-per-head tasting menu. Mmmm, sirloin. Oh, and the Sunday roast is the stuff of legend.
Shibden Mill Inn, Shibden Mill Fold, Halifax HX3 7UL
Coin, Hebden Bridge
It’s time to head along the A646 to Hebden Bridge, undoubtedly the most popular tourist spot in Calderdale. It’s not hard to see why once you’re there – Hebden is both beautiful and vibrant. Its latest addition is Coin, situated in a gorgeous old bank with the kitchen inside the vault. It may only have been open a matter of months, but it’s already a must-visit, with small plates like crispy pork katsu and home-smoked salmon ensuring bums on seats, and the beer, wine, and cocktails making it hard not to slide off them. But it’s the meat and cheese boards that are the real winner here: they’re huge.
Coin, Albert St, Hebden Bridge HX7 8AH
It’s only a 10-minute drive from Hebden to Todmorden and you won’t be sorry you’ve made the trip; it’s my favourite place for a night out in Calderdale. One of the delicious reasons to visit is Yakumama, a vegetarian street food business turned cantina and bar with a small, but perfectly formed menu of South American-inspired small plates and cocktails. The building is disarmingly beautiful but it’s a chilled-out affair, with dishes like ceviche providing colour and vibrance to match the surroundings. A brilliant spot for a date night.
Yakumama, 29 Rochdale Road, Todmorden OL14 7LA
The White Rabbit, Todmorden
As the Monty Python lot would say: and now, for something completely different. The choice of line is apt for The White Rabbit because it aims to surprise with its wackiness. David and Robin Gledhill have created two tasting menu options (vegetarian also available) that focus on showcasing a range of flavours, textures, techniques, and culinary influences. Vegetable soup and baked cod with cauliflower may sound fairly run-of-the-mill, but the emphasis here is on creativity; putting a unique twist on some classic combinations.
The White Rabbit, 1, White Hart Fold, Todmorden OL14 7BD
From the north side of Calderdale to the south, Brook’s is in a similar mould to Engine in several ways – a modern small-plate restaurant in a laid-back setting. The style of food is completely different, though, with a focus on seasonal dishes with British and European leanings, and always locally sourced ingredients. The idea of vacherin, leek, and potato tartiflette in December almost made me weep with joy. Jay Rayner recently called Brook's startlingly good – you’ll have to wait and see whether our reviewer agrees with him, but in the meantime, you should probably get it booked. It’s only going to get even more popular.
Brook’s, 6, Bradford Road, Brighouse HD6 1RW
Of course, there are plenty of other superb places to eat in Calderdale that go beyond the scope of my word limit. But it would be remiss of me not to mention some of the awesome local suppliers that add so much to the food scene – and the menus on this list. From the best sourdough you’ll ever taste at Ripponden’s Triangle Bakehouse, to the frankly ridiculous array of cheese at Calder Cheesehouse over in Todmorden, to smoked meaty goodness at Porcus and amazing veg at Artichoke or Valley Organics, there is something for everyone here, as well as a hell of a lot of quality and talent.
Follow Simon Richardson on Instagram @lunatic_on_the_grass.
Header image: Yakumama
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