CULINARY entrepreneur Mark Irving has a natural knack of knowing what gets the taste buds going in the Holme Valley.
After all, he’s been at it for a while in his quirky underground tapas bar Les Caveaux, spotted a chance and certainly took a risk when The Victoria pub on Woodhead Road between Holmfirth and Holmbridge was boarded up.
The risk is he’s clearly invested heavily into it to transform it into the Toad and Tatie – part tapas bar but predominantly a mid-priced A La Carte restaurant.
That’s not to say those who still want it as their local aren’t welcome. There were one or two dotted around the bar when we went in and the restaurant is open both before and after dinner is served.
Glancing through the window we thought at first the restaurant was empty as we arrived shortly before 9pm on a Thursday night.
We were wrong. The pub is, in effect, split into three distinct parts with the large, roomy bar in the centre and two dining rooms at either end. We’d seen the empty one as we peered curiously through the glass. Had we gone down to the other window we’d have seen it was busy.
Inside it has a minimalist feel with the walls that women would describe as taupe in colour. A bloke would say they were a dark beige or a light brown. But that’s blokes for you. No imagination, allegedly. I’ll let you into another secret. Apparently the paint came from Farrow and Ball. The classy stuff. The flagged floors are set against cream walls and exposed stonework, adding to that crisp, neat and modern feel and the artwork – mainly modern – on the walls is for sale.
The menu’s not overlong but is more or less immediately doubled when you look at the specials board. If you’re not a fish or meat fan then, well, there’s something for you but probably not advisable to read on here.
For starters I had fresh Scottish mussels cooked with chorizo and brandy (£5.95). Clearly Mark doesn’t do things by halves either. A quick count up revealed more than 30 of the little Scottish blighters, but also revealed one thing that was lacking – a chunk of bread.
Luckily the waitress had also provided a spoon for the superbly spiced sauce that saved me from, quite literally, lapping it up. I was having every last drop no matter what. It had a rich piquancy and made a great change from the usual creamy accompaniment to mussels.
Ruth had a hot salmon salad with beetroot. Big chunks of salmon that were ... cold. Never quite sure what the hot meant but another great starter. Things were starting to look very promising.
The other starters on offer include Thai steak salad – strips of seared steak on a salad base served with a warm Thai dressing (£5.95).
An so on to the mains and the French fish stew was certainly tempting with a mermaid-style siren call to it. But no, after the mussels let’s go inland.
And so it was the duck, pork and Toulouse sausage cassoulet with haricot beans. You can’t get much more inland than that although the duck may beg to differ.