In larger towns and cities they may have developed a ‘northern quarter’ or a ‘civic quarter,’ but Huddersfield could now boast its own ‘gastro quarter.’
Tucked away on the corner of Wood Street, just off John William Street, down the side of the Cherry Tree Wetherspoons pub, is Meson La Pepa, a superb little Spanish restaurant which was previously the Italian Mona Lisa’s and is situated opposite Caribbean specialists Discovery Bay.
And it was after leaving the pub one evening we were drawn to Meson La Pepa and, enticed by the mouthwatering and irresistible aromas, we vowed to make an visit – and pronto.
A few days later the booking was made and our greeting was as warm as the early spring sunshine we experienced.
Now, I love tapas. I love the laid back enjoy-a-little-bit-of-a-lot-of-food type ethos of eating, as a change to the standard three course eat-until-you’re-stuffed scenario.
The restaurant was warm and inviting with rustic charm and ornaments, like the beautiful candle-burning lamp hung thoughtfully as a feature above the steps to the second level dining area, while the colour scheme was clean, fresh and modern with splashes of warm Mediterranean orange.
We were handed the extensive leather-bound menus and the fun began.
My Spanish, I have to admit, is virtually non-existent and the full English translations were a blessing. However, my boyfriend, who is well-versed in the language, found it a bit disconcerting when the waiter didn’t quite understand his question in Spanish about one of the dishes.
With pages of the menu to peruse featuring both hot and cold tapas, we got stuck in and part of the fun was opting for four dishes each with no replications.
Our attentive waiter was patient while we decided and was on hand to offer advice and suggestions.
The Spanish word “tapa” actually means “lid” and the concept of tapas originated years ago.
When farmers and labourers had finished work for the day they would often go to the “tascas” (tavern) for a well earned drink. The innkeeper would place a slice of bread on top of their drink to stop the flies from going in! Gradually they began to place things on top of the bread, like cured meats and sausages, and they were then eaten as snacks to accompany the drink.
With tapas, the dishes arrive as they are ready rather than all together – which is brilliant as it creates a leisurely meal and allows you to suit your own appetite.
Our selection featured mushrooms, topped with serrano ham, fresh garlic and red peppers; tender beef meatballs with fresh garlic and parsley cooked in a white wine sauce with green peas; crispy chicken wings; and the Ensalada La Pepa – a salad of sweetcorn, tuna, boiled egg, red onions, pepper with crispy lettuce.
Dale’s selection comprised cod Rioja style, with tomato, onion and paprika; chorizo in red wine sauce; prawns in garlic and meatballs with peas.
If the sound of all that fare doesn’t make your mouth water nothing will.
And it was gorgeous – not too oily, drenched or over seasoned – just right.
I’ve got to say that every mouthful was a taste sensation and it was one of those meals that I didn’t want to end.
Each dish, which ranged from £3.75 to £5.25, felt like it had been thoughtfully prepared, lovingly almost, and the attention to detail was a credit to the chef.
We washed it all down with a couple of large bottles of chilled Cruzcampo.
There was also a variety of potatoes cooked in different styles, omelettes, paellas, rice and meats and cheeses to entice too.
The outstanding dish of the day was the Bacalao a al riojana (cod Rioja style, with tomato, onion and paprika) and when we asked the waiter to pass on our thanks to the chef, he nodded knowingly and explained how the chef spends a lot of his preparation time tenderly removing each individual fish bone by hand. Class.
We also received a complimentary aperitif and a voucher for 20% off our next food bill.
Meson La Pepa are currently running a lunchtime special offering any two tapas with a drink for £6.95 per person from noon to 2pm daily, and I highly recommend it.
Meson La Pepa
Wood Street, Huddersfield, HD1 1DG
Tel: 01484 515141
Opening hours:Monday to Saturday lunchtimes – noon until 2pm. Monday to Saturday evenings – 5pm to 10pm. Closed Sundays.
Disabled access Tricky as there was a flight of stairs from the entrance down to the dining area.
The bill £36.25 excluding drinks
Would you go back? Oh YES!