Neil Sowerby is impressed by formidable sourcing at this new Hebden Bridge bar with food
Three snapshots of artisan dedication; each helps define an ambitious new bar.
Firstly up in the Savoie Alps, in a chalet permeated with blue mould spores, Catherine Richard creates her unique Bleu de Termignon cheese from the summer milk of her 18 Tarine and Abondance cows.
An initial saline mushroominess is a puzzle - like Camembert on steroids.
Over in Italy in the Bassa Parmense, the river plain between Parma and the Po, the prized “heart” of the local ham is stitched into a pig’s bladder and aged for two years, in a climate that veers between dense winter fog and stifling summer humidity, to emerge as the ancient cut, Culatello di Zibello.
Nearer home in Hebden Bridge Coin chef Josh Al-kazhraji is curing his own duck hams Chinese style to share the menu with the Bleu and the Culatello.
That menu shows Coin standing apart from its fellow bars in the Pennine day-tripper mecca. Not a glimmer of smashed avocado, vegan “tacos” and the like. The initial impression when it opened before Christmas was of the formidable sourcing indicated. Now, three months in, the presence of Al-kazhraji at the stove is beginning to tell.
Once of Mary-Ellen McTague’s The Creameries, his last big gig was at the Moorcock at Norland seven vertiginous miles away. Impossible to replicate that wonder’s shape-shifting level of invention, so why try? Yet its influence hovers over new dishes such as roasted celeriac broth, packed with kale and dressed with crispy leek oil and pickled red chilli.
The sense of Moorcock symbiosis goes further since Coin’s co-owners, Oliver Lawson and Chloe Greenwood, both worked there (his CV also includes El Gato Negro and some newsworthy place called mana). On a handsome, lofty windowed corner site their own venture avoids any moorland rustic vibe (bar some seriously knotty timber tabletops), transforming what was a dowdy Lloyds Bank branch through a new slate floor and soaring exposed brickwork.
Check out the scale with our chihuahua as a marker.
The name? Might be a reference to the “The Cragg Vale Coiners”. Up the hill in Heptonstall, Shane Meadows has been filming The Gallows Pole – a BBC adaptation of Ben Myers’ novel about real life18th century counterfeiters in the Calder Valley. Or maybe Coin as the French for corner to match the position overlooking two streets. Or just an echo of the small change that once passed over the bank counter. Oliver’s not telling.
He is, though, encouraging me, as if I need encouragement, to engage with a schooner of 7.5% Arpus Mango x Passionfruit x Vanilla Imperial Sour from Latvia from an eight-strong draught beer list that starts with a more sessionable Helles Lager from Munich. Another Moorcock legacy – the bottled list is dominated by Belgium.
Cocktails are just a holy trinity of Negroni, Sweet Manhattan and Vodka Martini. What is striking is the wine list, which Chloe has compiled from – you guessed it – the more eclectic importers, with a strong emphasis on natural. None of the four by-the-glass options we tried was less than delicious from a red berry juicy rosé, Entre Vinyes Oniric Rosat (£6.50) up to a Fredi Torres Priorat Classic red (£11.25) from further south in Catalonia, rich, herby, with a distinctive pepperiness on the nose.
And so to the food offering. That celeriac broth at £8.25 felt more than a small plate, ditto potato fondue (£8.75), sticky with melted Pexommier, an organic washed rind cheese from up the road near Todmorden. Its inspiration is the French Coulommier, the farm is at Pexwood. Both dishes require dipping toast, the sourdough from a Polish baker in Bacup.
Crisp outside, squidgy inside best sums up savoury choux chips (£6.75) and chestnut mushroom croquettes (£5.75). The latter are airy light, given punch by a wicked salsa verde, while the former, unprepossessing, dumpy cousins of the profiterole, are a delight under their snowstorm of grated Old Winchester cheese.
Duck two ways next, as they say. Two dishes linked by Chinese five-spice. The aforementioned 24-hour cured duck ham (£6.50), thinly sliced without losing its frame of creamy fat, is delicate, given sharpness by a scattering of pickle. Coin’s homemade pickles are outstanding and radish and salted cucumber feature in duck dish number two, a very pretty quartet of sticky hoisin duck lettuce cups (£10) arguably the best of the cooked dishes.
My first fleeting visit concentrated, though, on the bought-in meats. A £10.95 selection of five cheeses (bread extra) is tempting but the 100g platter of Italian charcuterie for three quid more wins out because each individual producer is named on the menu, ranging from Massimo Corra in Trentino (the coppa) to Carlo Pieri in Tuscany (finocchona), while Aldo Zivieri’s mortadella from the Bologna Appenines even made a convert of my wife, who detests the lank, pink industrial stuff that debases supermarket chill counters.
Oliver and Chloe have travelled widely across Italy to grasp its artisanal culinary identity; but their portal for this traditionally produced charcuterie is the Ham and Cheese Company in Bermondsey, which supplies some of the capital’s finest restaurants. Its website charges £162 for a 1.8kg chunk of that Culatello di Zibello. At Coin, it’s £12 for a special platter, garnished perfectly with a pickle of new season rhubarb.
I love its savoury muskiness, a description that might apply also to the £7.50 tranche of the Bleu de Termignon, except it’s far more challenging on the palate. Like extreme natural wine, you are in two minds at first taste. So an initial saline mushroominess is a puzzle - like Camembert on steroids. Second bite and we are smitten, no little thanks to the pool of honey it is served on, which provides the perfect counterpoint.
You could just pop into this shiny new Coin for a craft beer, accessible natural wine or even a coffee, but check out the food menu. It’s an act of daring in a cautious bar climate.
Coin, Albert Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8AH, 01422 847707
Follow Neil Sowerby on Twitter @antonegomanc
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
croquettes 7, choux chips 8, fondue 7, celeriac broth 8, duck cups 8, charcuterie plate 9, culatello 9, duck ham 8, bleu 8
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