It’s Friday night and after a long hard week I’m shattered. Collapsing into a chair thinking thank goodness I have the weekend to look forward to. My husband suggests we go out for a meal on Saturday night.
“Hmm… ok.” I reply.
“So where do you fancy going?” he asks.
“Oh, I don’t know but I think we should try somewhere new.” I say.
“Well, there is one place which I’ve heard is very good.” He replies.
We phone to book a table but find it’s booked up after 8pm. But we’re offered a table for six o’clock. We take it.
It’s the Elgato Negro Tapas in Ripponden, Sowerby Bridge. I look it up on the internet. Up pops a review by Jay Rayner from the Guardian and I read it. This is looking increasing like a good choice I think to myself. Although not quite convinced, I remember a couple of other restaurants in the Pennines we have tried during the past year one of which won a national prestigious award, the experience was extremely disappointing.
As we drive to the restaurant on Saturday evening I say: “I hope it’s not pretentious and over the top. I just hate loaded food.”
In Ripponden we park up on the main street lined with gritstone shop fronts. It’s a cold but dry evening. As we open the door a gush of warm air and the smell of an open fire greets us. The place has just opened for the night and a friendly face welcomes us. We find out very soon that Chris Williams the joint owner and restaurant manager is a warm and an excellent host.
Given the pick of the tables we choose one near the glowing embers. Looking round the place it has a plain yet tasteful ambiance and the music was spot on, Spanish and very Mediterranean not the usual Gipsy Kings or Joaquin Rodrigo you tend to hear. So far so good I think to myself.
Looking at the menu we find it is simple and promising. Lots of Tapas bars offer so much bread based dishes but this isn’t one of those. Yes, there is bread on the menu but only a choice of two. Chris sits down with us and starts to chat effortlessly about the menu and explains the food will not arrive on mass but will flow through as and when required. We dictate the timing of the dishes.
We order and wait. The bread with olive oil, garlic and tomatoes arrive. The first bite is a pleasant surprise, only just a hint of garlic. I immediately start to beam with delight as the usual garlic loaded topping that is served in most Tapas bars (including Spain) is absent.
“This could be a promising evening,” I whisper.
Next to arrive is the salted cod croquettes with again just a hint of garlic. After which the chickpeas, broad beans and peas in mint and parsley sauce arrive together with the Onglet steak with Patatas a la Pobre. I don’t eat beef so I watch my husband tuck in with relish. He tells me it is the best beef he has eaten for many a year. We finish with the Sardines and all I can tell you is the taste transported me to Cyprus where the previous year we ate at a small local fisherman’s restaurant.
For dessert my husband ordered the vanilla lemon tart which he savoured with delight as each spoonful melted away.
We have eaten Tapas before several times in cities centres at home and abroad, (even in Spain) but this experience was very hard to beat. The evening for two cost under £60 with two glasses of a good red wine included and a bottle of sparkling mineral water.
This experience restored my faith in Pennine restaurants.
After our meal we chatted with Chris and we told him how much we enjoyed our evening and that we will definitely be going to be back.
Back in the car, I drive since I haven’t been drinking. Driving back home on the dark country roads we talk about how each dish had its own flavour, how each was fresh and sharp without being masked by strong sauces, garlic or too many herb and spices. We discuss how welcome we felt and how it was one of the best meals we have had for a long time.
“Yes,” I say nodding to my husband. “No pretentious twaddle”