Sarah heads to the vibrant market town of Todmorden nestled in the South Pennines, for a stack of coffee-soaked paradise
It’s not often you visit somewhere you’d like to host a party. Somewhere with those magic ingredients: Considered décor; plenty of space; music at the right level for a decent conversation, but with enough vim for it to feel celebratory; friendly staff; inclusive menu; reliable transport links.
This fierce independent won’t need to bring out a garlic butter flavoured lip balm to stay relevant
Admittedly, the last point may be a bone of contention for Tod residents, as this small town has recently faced a wave of business closures, for which, part of the blame has been placed on a lack of infrastructure to support visiting trade. There are signs though, that locals are pulling together to ensure the remaining bars and restaurants stay afloat. Three large groups enter during our lunch, with toddlers and prams and Grannies in tow; A chink of prosecco glasses from the long table at the back; someone comes in to pay a deposit for their upcoming venue hire.
There is no denying that Site Pizzeria caters to all tastes, offering fast, casual, all-day dining for all ages. Owners Natalie Barrass and Olly Bamford list ‘Community & consistency’ at the core of their ethics. But unlike the popular high street chains of the early 2000’s, where pizza making parties were all the rage, this fierce independent won’t need to bring out a garlic butter flavoured lip balm to stay relevant.
Daily specials make the most of seasonal produce from in and around Calderdale. An Italian-style Brunch has been launched on Sundays. The building’s original features have been lovingly preserved. The curved bar front, shelving, and tables are built from reclaimed wood. Repurposed metal caging houses hanging glassware and colourful bottles of spirits. Abstract art ornaments the walls. Sunlight streams in through panels of stained glass. An open fire roars in one corner.
Each and every seat in the house has its own character. There are 1950’s American retro high stools, Mid-century teak curved back dining chairs, antique school benches, and velvet booths. Some are in a better state of repair than others, the lady behind us nearly gets punctured by a loose nail protruding from her choice of pew.
Snacks are simple and satisfying. A square ramekin of spiced nuts are glossed in a sticky burnt orange honey. The kind you’d see blitzed up into a sugar tuile on TV. A small plate of burrata, anointed with a drizzle of grassy olive oil, is filled with milky sweet Puglian cream; slow roasted balsamic tomatoes collapsing beside. Lanky young rocket leaves, entangled with slices of courgette are scattered with a fine parmesan snow. There’s a homegrown freshness to everything. A palpable sense of provenance.
The Lasagne Verde from the specials board warms the soul on a grey day. Layers of soft pasta weld together in a neat slab between oily blankets of spinach, garlic and leek bechamel. Its hard to resist mopping up the pesto-y juices with the finger of dense focaccia alongside. Softer still, is the pizza dough. Not pillowy like a Neapolitan crust, but rustic and flavoursome. The Veggie is topped with half-moons of red onion, kalamata olives, mozzarella, and fragrant little pops of roquito pepper.
When they think it’s pavlova, out comes the Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb. A multitextured meringue sandwich, where vanilla custard meets tangy rhubarb and smoky slivers of almond. Imagine this on a lunch time meal deal. But if you want value for money, the giant stack of Tiramisu is your guy. Whiter than white whipped mascarpone melts on the tongue as you double back on forgiving forkfuls of mousse, heavily dusted with cocoa and a strong coffee aftertaste. I’m sold.
By the time we finish our meal, the place has filled up for dinner service. And judging by the incessant passing traffic over the humpback bridge, Todmorden is as busy as ever. Will local households have enough birthdays, engagements, anniversaries and graduations to sustain this authentic neighbourhood pizzeria? I very much hope so.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
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.
Burrata 7, Courgette Salad 6, Nuts 5, Pizza 5, Lasagne 5, Tiramisu 9, Pavlova 8
Young & friendly, the pizzaiolo looks about 12
Ideal for a party!