Wakefield is often considered a poor relation to Leeds when it comes to dining out establishments, but there are one or two gems dotted around the city if you care to do a spot of investigating and are prepared to take a chance.
One which opened earlier this year, and which I’d been informed had met with mixed reviews on social media, is New York Italian Kitchen on Northgate which, incidentally is where the majority of Wakefield Mediterranean eateries are to be found these days.
I always take internet-based reviews with a pinch of salt, in too many cases they are overly critical and can be used for point-scoring against rival establishments. I much prefer to form my own opinion.
And so, without bothering to read any of them I tried to book a table, as always, at the last minute. The first couple of times I was unsuccessful as the restaurant was full – always a good indicator – but then, on the third attempt I got an early-evening table one Thursday.
The restaurant is housed in what was, in part, a newsagent’s shop and is actually on the corner of Northgate and Cross Street and is small and compact with the menu displayed prominently on the doors and windows to entice people in.
I regularly walk by this restaurant during the day and it seems to be filled mainly with groups of office workers and students enjoying a quick lunch: the lunchtime menu is two courses for £11 and three for £15 and students get a good discount at other times too.
Our booking was for 7pm and there were only a few tables already taken when we walked in. A group of what I took to be colleagues were just finishing their meals but lingered for a good hour afterwards, enjoying their drinks and obviously not feeling pressurised into giving up their spot. A table of well-behaved teenagers were celebrating one of their number’s birthday and were treated graciously by the staff who went out of their way to make the evening enjoyable; two or three other tables were occupied with young couples and the atmosphere seemed relaxed and informal.
And that despite the decor which is industrial with bare floors, lots of metal, sharp angles and way too many lights. It’s as bright as day and doesn’t create the sort of ambiance I like when I’m dining out – they’d save a fortune in energy bills if they dimmed them a little. The music however, is perfect, a mixture of jazz and blues at just the right level.
We had our choice of tables and opted for one near the window. Although the restaurant is small they’ve resisted the temptation to cram in too many tables and it didn’t feel cramped.
Drinks were offered and accepted, a glass of lightly-chilled Trulli Pinot Grigio for me and a bottle of Peroni for my companion.
The menu is comprehensive, with everything you’d expect from an Italian restaurant: a good selection of pasta and pizzas with steak, fish, burgers and seafood.
We opted for the Italian sharing board (£13) and an extra portion of garlic mushrooms (£5). However, had we realised how generous the portion sizes were we might have dispensed with the mushrooms – which would actually have been a shame as they were fabulous, served in a skillet with a side salad and three slices of ciabatta bread on a wooden board – a lot of thought had obviously gone into presentation.
Likewise the sharing board. An artistic collection of cured and dried meats, tomatoes, lashings of mozzarella and a pot of mixed olives.
Despite my endorsements to try something other than steak as a main course, my companion once again fixed on a meat feast. The 10oz fillet (£25) was offered with a choice of four sauces (with a £2 surcharge) skin-on fries, side salad, herb potatoes or sweet potato fries (£1 extra).
It was at this point that the presentation went a little awry. The steak was nicely dressed with a side salad and the sauce came in a little pot but the fries were plonked on a plain white plate in the manner of a greasy spoon cafe. My spinach and mushroom tagliatelle (£8) was more presentable and the side order of mozzarella and parmesan salad £3.50) nicely put together.
Although it was not a feast for the eyes, the steak was cooked as requested (medium rare) and proclaimed quite delicious. My tagliatelli was rich and creamy with a nice balance between the spinach and mushrooms and the mozzarella in the salad plentiful.
I wasn’t really hungry enough for a dessert and though nothing on the menu really grabbed my attention I opted to share a New York baked cheesecake (£4.50). Again portion size was generous and the cheesecake was delicately flavoured without being too bland, which can often be the case with this particular dish.
Another round of drinks brought the bill to a little shy of £80 – possibly a little bit on the expensive side for the average Wakefield diner but on a par with restaurants in Leeds. In a bid to address this there is a 20 per cent discount on food orders Tuesday to Thursday from 4.45pm-6.30pm and the restaurant regularly advertises other special offers on their Facebook page. Which, incidentally also has some CCTV footage of their resident ghost – soon to be investigated by a paranormal group.
Our waiter Matty was polite, helpful and efficient. It’s a shame that it wasn’t more busy on the night we visited, by the time we left at 8.30pm the place was almost empty and the staff were looking to shut up shop early.
This restaurant deserves to do well – it’s a young team, and what they may lack in experience they make up for in enthusiasm – and the food is really good.
New York Italian Kitchen
Address: 43 Northgate, Wakefield, WF1 3BH
Tel: 01924 650470
Opening times: 11.30am-2.30pm (not Sun or Mon) & 5-10pm (Fri and Sat until 11pm); Sun 4-9pm.