On June 16, 1984, 35,000 striking miners took to the streets of Wakefield for Yorkshire Miner’s Gala - despite the majority resolutely being on strike.
Photographs of marchers with banners flying high have become synonymous with the strike in the city, and the demise of almost all of the region’s pits.
Now images from that day, and of pits across the district, including Caphouse Colliery, Grange Moor and Denby Grange, grace the walls of a different type of pit - Wakefield’s Grill Pit restaurant.
It’s a nice nod to the city’s history that could have easily been overlooked when the restaurant, which offers American style barbeque, opened in September 2012.
The Grill Pit was one of the first of its kind in Wakefield, and opened at a time when Man Versus Food style meat-centric restaurants seemed to be popping up on every corner in Leeds.
I visited last for lunch in the first few months of opening, and enjoyed it, but haven’t been back since the carnivorous Smokehouse, and previous Oliver hit, opened just around the corner.
So I was keen to see how the restaurant had evolved.
The first thing that had changed was instant to see - it now has a cocktail bar downstairs, Jock’s Cavern.
The menu itself was bigger than I remembered, but the busy but relaxed atmosphere remained.
There are nine starters to choose from, ranging in price from £3.50 for cheesy nachos to £5.95 for an intriguing bacon-wrapped meatloaf, pit wings and meaty nachos.
A bit over-faced by the choice, we ordered our starters while still deciding on our mains. A welcome relief, given it was a Friday night, the restaurant was filling up fast and we’d already asked the several waitresses attending to our table for extra time to decide.
The industrial theme continued with the names of some of the concoctions, and it was with that in mind that my dining partner finally settled on Tattie Rivets, fried mashed potato fingers stuffed with beer-braised beef brisket, at £4.95. I went for the chilli beef nachos, priced at £5.95.
Almost as soon as we’d finally decided on our mains, our starters appeared, and immediately had ours fearing for our waistlines.
The Tattie Rivets - large, finger like croquettes, were tasty but a little disappointing. We were left wondering if we’d interpreted the menu wrongly as they appeared to be nothing more than potato, when we were expecting them to be stuffed with brisket. Either way, my dining partner enjoyed them, and particularly liked the accompanying gravy. The crispy deep-fried coating added a nice contrast to the fluffy mash inside, but overall it lacked a wow factor.
The chilli beef nachos however, had it in spades. The very generous portion could have easily filled me for a main. The chilli itself wasn’t too hot, but the large serving of jalapenos made up for that. The added bacon bits made the nachos a bit different and added that all-important extra burst of meatiness. My only suggestion would be to ease up slightly with the toppings and add a few extra chips instead.
After being warned that our mains would take a little longer, partly due to the delay in ordering and my choice of a Tandoori Hot Rod (£13.95), we were surprised to see them arrive shortly after our starters were taken away.
There are a vast array of options for meat-lovers, though any vegetarians are probably wise to stay away. Along with the usual steaks, six hand-crafted burgers, a selection of hot dogs and lots to offer from the ‘chicken coop’, The Grill Pit offers combos, where diners can choose up to four different barbeque meats.
Having been overwhelmed by the size of the starter, I was glad to have changed my mind at the last minute from combining brisket and ribs and instead choosing the hot rod, a large chicken skewer that are so big the menu comes with the previously mentioned warning that they take a little longer to cook than other dishes.
This relief was misjudged, as when it arrived on the table, hanging from an iron skewer, it was much bigger than I imagined. Huge chunks of chicken breast hung next to pieces of onion, courgette and pepper. The chicken itself was moist and had a lovely smokey flavour, while the vegetables were cooked just right. Rather than presenting an awkward tussle, the meat slipped straight off the skewer.
My dining partner raved about his Pit Dog (£14.95), a nine inch hot dog served with beef brisket, pulled pork, fried onions, pickles, jalapenos and cheese sauce. The hot dog sausage was smokey and beef was flavoursome and didn’t have the artificial barbeque taste you often find with brisket or pulled pork. Wise choices all round.
After a short break we decided to indulge in desserts. There was a good selection, including two specials, priced at £4.95. My chocolate peanut stack was sweet and gooey and the perfect antidote to all the meat, whereas the sourness of After Eight cheesecake had a similar effect for my partner.
All in all, we very much enjoyed our return to The Grill Pit. The service was very keen, and quick given it was a busy Friday night, with three courses ordered and served within an hour and a half.
The final bill, including drinks, came to £65.75, which seemed fair for such a tasty and belly-busting meal.
The only slight nag would be the tables, which seemed to be reflect the gritty theme by being rather sticky. However, it won’t put us off making a return trip.
The Grill Pit, Wakefield
Address: 5-7 The Bull Ring, Wakefield, WF1 1HB
Tel: 01924 360476
Opening times: Monday to Thursday, 12pm-8.45pm last orders, Friday and Saturday, 12pm-9.45pm last orders; Sunday 12pm-4.45pm last orders.