On what must have been the hottest, most humid night in Yorkshire for many a long year, we presented ourselves at The Cow Shed restaurant which is housed in a beautiful timber-framed building on Northgate, in the heart of Wakefield city centre.
As we were shown to our table upstairs, it became apparent that the solitary fan lazily stirring the air was having no effect whatsoever on the temperature in the room and the atmosphere was not at all conducive to a pleasant evening’s dining experience. So much so that we considered abandoning our plans entirely and going elsewhere.
However, our evening was saved at the last minute by the suggestion that we up-sticks and decamp outside to one of the two tables in the pleasant courtyard out back.
So, menus and drinks in hand and followed closely by our waiter with cutlery and napkins, we trooped out and re-assembled everything in the welcome fresh air.
We didn’t learn our waiter’s name but he appeared to be ever so grateful to have an excuse to venture outside and proceeded to be incredibly attentive throughout our stay. Popping in and out for a breather whenever it got too much for him inside.
In fact, I’m surprised that more hasn’t been made of the opportunities for alfresco dining at the Cow Shed. There’s room for a few more tables in the yard at the rear and, with the addition of a bit more greenery it could be a very pleasant area on the occasions - rare though they are - when the evenings are balmy enough to dine outside.
The Cow Shed was first opened as a restaurant in 2003, before then, the impressive Grade II-listed building, parts of which date back to he late fifteenth century, housed Robinson’s sweetshop-a regular stopping off point for pupils at the nearby girls’ high school.
One of those sweet-toothed pupils, a certain Joanne Harris,who is said to have based her best-selling book Chocolat around the shop.
Seasonal produce cooked in a modern English style is the order of the day at the Cow Shed and there is plenty of choice on the menu.
Although not overly expensive at any time of the day or night, It’s particularly good value if you book early; on Monday evenings and Tuesday to Saturday from 6-7pm diners can take advantage of the early bird menu when two courses are £14.95 and three courses £17.95. There’s also a two-course lunch menu for £12.95 with three courses £14.95.
We chose from the a la carte menu. I opted for salmon and prawn fishcakes with a lovely garlic sauce, my dining companion chicken liver and mushroom parfait jus with red onion jam, both a modest £6.95.
As we waited for our starters to arrive we munched on bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Despite the even more modest £1.45 we were charged it would be a nice gesture if this, like in many other establishments, came on the house.
Starters came in good time and were beautifully displayed. Neither disappointed. The fishcakes were large, hot and tender, the breadcrumb coating with just the right amount of crunchiness.
We indulged in a bit of food-sharing so I got to taste the parfait as well and found it tasty and not too cloying to the palette as can often be the case.
For the main dish, and after much deliberation, my companion chose a 16oz T-bone steak from the specials board he’d spotted while we were inside.
This came with the usual trimmings and was so substantial I didn’t expect him to manage it. But, he gamely battled through it, cleared his plate and vowed he enjoyed every mouthful.
I went for the roasted rump of lamb which came cooked to my requirements (medium to well-cooked if you want to know) and was accompanied by roast butternut squash and spinach and garnished with a rosemary and red wine jus.
I declined the suggestion of a side order of potatoes or fries but ultimately regretted it.
Although the lamb was superb, very tender and tasty, the butternut squash was over represented and potatoes in some form or another would have balanced the flavours out nicely.
I consoled myself by depriving my companion of a few of his fries - tasty, though sadly not home-cooked, due, we were told to lack of space in the kitchen.
I was undecided about a dessert but when the waiter helpfully took a photo of the menu board so we wouldn’t have to go inside to peruse it, I hadn’t the heart to say no. Besides, he said the magic word rhubarb so that was me smitten. The T-bone though had left its mark, so the cheeseboard was all my companion felt able to manage.
My rhubarb dish turned out to be a rhubarb and ginger pudding - quite divine and utterly delicious, but sadly again, not made in-house. I was assured however it came from a local artisan bakery which was good enough for me.
The cheese board consisted of an interesting selection of cheeses, all of which were described in great detail by our knowledgeable waiter and were consumed down to the last morsel.
In all, we had a thoroughly pleasant evening, made even more so by the helpful staff. It’s the first time Oliver has visited the Cow Shed which was obviously an oversight,now put right.
The final bill, including two rounds of beers- neither of us are wine drinkers, came to £75. Not especially cheap but definitely representing jolly good value for money.
Address: 53, Northgate, Wakefield, WF1 3BP.
Opening times: Monday to Saturday Noon-2pm and 6-9.30pm
Tel: 01924 291044