Featured Restaurant Review: Bistro Eighteen 64
For me, dining out in Huddersfield has never been an easy process. A handful of suggestions are thrown in the air like clay pigeons, all of which get shot down just as quickly as they are mentioned. This may be mainly due to the fact that the majority of them are simply chains, which although are nice eateries, don’t really have that something ‘special’. And something special was exactly what I was searching for last Friday night.
Of course, nowadays I only look for places that accept the Gourmet Society card, as although I love good quality food I appreciate great savings all the more. So I was pleasantly surprised to find somewhere quite intriguing more or less just up the road from me; a charming looking bistro in Lindley called Bistro Eighteen 64.
Nestled away in a small courtyard known as the Wellington Mills Heritage Exchange, my lady friend and I managed to find it with ease and approached the elevated terrace area with optimism in our minds and a rumbling in our stomachs. A sign outside proclaimed that the bistro was ‘a hidden Linley gem’, which was a claim I intended to test.
When we entered the restaurant we were almost in awe, as the quaint, unassuming exterior does an excellent job of concealing the grand interior. It was much larger than we had first thought, with a second floor seemingly reserved for special occasions (I judged from the cacophony of cackling women and boisterous booming of men’s laughter emanating from said floor) and ample seating on the ground floor. The whole restaurant was subtly decorated too, with wonderful touches like a French fashioned clock face on the wall and warming lights found by more or less every table, which during our evening visit created a warming ambience.
I would later be told by the friendly manager that the restaurant had been renamed in the past few years to reflect the rich history of the location. The Wellington Mills was originally built in 1864 and most of it had remained standing strongly since then. The one unfortunate exception was the restaurant itself, which had been obliterated in a bomb raid during the Second World War. The grade listed building was rebuilt around the original structure, and business resumed up until this day. When deciding upon the new name for the restaurant, the owners decided that something reflecting this history would be a wonderful tribute, and thus Bistro Eighteen 64 was born.
Although it was a busy Friday night, the service couldn’t have been more courteous. Each member of staff that we spoke to had a smile on their face, plenty of advice to give in terms of dishes and drinks, and simply couldn’t have been more kind if they’d tried. We were given the choice between a pleasant little table that overlooked the ivy covered walls outside or to be seated in the comfortable and secluded corner on the ground floor. We opted for the latter, and before we could even look through the menu we could hear patrons a few tables down sing (seriously, virtually sing) praises for the meals and the desserts. I took this to be a good sign, so I set myself to perusing the menu, aiming to sample one of the inadvertent recommendations. An incredibly delightful waitress swiftly arrived and saw to our alcoholic needs, taking our orders quickly and with grace. My partner picked her poison of choice, a potent Gin Fizz, while I decided to go completely into testosterone fuelled Y chromosome mode and chose the zesty Pornstar Martini. Halfway through these concoctions we began to feel that familiar warming buzz, and given that I’m a seasoned cocktail connoisseur (or, you know, a borderline alcoholic) this was a wonderful surprise.
Deciding not to bloat ourselves, we both decided to play the evening by ear and headed straight for the main event, despite how tantalising the beer battered tiger prawns or basil pesto accompanied baked Camembert sounded. As my lady friend and I make the ideal cuisine tasting team, with her being a herbivorous diner and I a carnivorous machine, she ordered the delectable sounding Spinach and Goat’s Cheese Wellington, complete with a rich Napoli sauce, while I submitted to my primal side and decided upon the succulent Fillet of Beef, partnered with perfectly golden onion rings and twice cooked chips.
When our dishes arrived I was stunned at the presentation. My partner was delighted to enjoy something at a restaurant that wasn’t the standard ‘cheese tart’ or ‘spicy bean burger’, and the vegetarian friendly Wellington looked so nice that even I wanted to try some. Granting me a small forkful of the filo pastry wrapped goat’s cheese, dapped slightly with the Napoli sauce, I savoured the tastes from that brief serving. She was right to be pleased, as the cheese was wonderfully creamy, the subtle flavours of it and the pastry were accented wonderfully by the Napoli sauce, which featured a smooth tomato flavour with hints of basil. The dish was fairly large, so I had no doubt that she would be thoroughly satisfied in terms of both her palate and her appetite.
My meal, the large cut of top quality beef, was equally as blissful; perhaps more so, as I got to consume the entire thing. Merely teasing my taste buds, I took every effort to sample everything on my plate apart from the steak, which included perfectly crisp and delicious onion rings, the large and fluffy chips and a cursory bite of the perfectly roasted mushroom. I didn’t care to try the tomato, even though it looked pretty good, even to me. The fillet itself had been cooked to perfection (rare, naturally) and almost melted in my mouth. It was so tender, so juicy, so utterly filled with flavour that the slightest movement of my jaws made the taste burst onto my tongue. Every other forkful I’d skewer something else from the plate along with the meat and each time I found the mixture heavenly. After all was said and devoured, I used the odd remaining chip to mop up the extra plasma (yes, not blood, that’s actually plasma that comes out of steaks) along with a dash of salt, leaving nothing but the tomato remaining.
Suffice to say, we both made short work of our meals, and we both enjoyed them immensely. However, we were yet to be finished with Bistro Eighteen 64, as we had been enticed by the desserts menu several times upon our re-reading of the menu. Although each choice brought a curious sound from between my lips we decided to share the homemade cherry Bakewell, as although our hearts were in it, I don’t think our hearts could have taken a dessert each.
Almost in the same breath as placing our order the pudding was set before us, perfectly warm and with a scoop of slightly dripping sherbet ice cream resting upon it. We both grabbed a spoon and set upon savouring this treat, but after the first taste it was obvious neither of us could eat with restraint. The Bakewell was exquisitely sweet, yet not so overpowering that it could be called sickly. The stewed berries that accompanied it added an extra fruity flavour to the ensemble, as well as creating the sensation of the cake overflowing with jam. And the sherbet ice cream that came with it was as necessary and well received as a dusting of icing sugar, as the distinct, yet not overpowering, sherbet taste worked perfectly with the dessert as a whole. To summarise the dish in one word, I would certainly say that it was divine, and it was a perfect conclusion to our brilliant meal.
After paying an incredibly reasonable price for such a rich experience and chatting with the staff and manager for a while, we left the restaurant and took up a seat on the terrace/al fresco area by the door. My lady friend lit up an after meal cigarette and asked me if I thought that Bistro Eighteen 64 was, as it had claimed, a hidden gem in Lindley. I replied that no, it was not. Bistro Eighteen 64 had undersold itself completely, as it wasn’t merely a twinkling trinket in the small area of Lindley; it was truly an undiscovered wonder of the Huddersfield dining scene as a whole. And it’s for this reason that I personally cannot wait to pay them a visit again very soon.
By Tom Simpkins