CHANGING times dictated that the working village of Clayton West had to re-invent itself.
Once a thriving mining community based on busy pits and a bustling railhead, 21st Century Clayton has gradually been transformed into a tranquil, slow-paced suburbia.
The pits and railway have gone (although this was replaced with the popular narrow gauge Kirklees Light Railway now running on the former branch line through Skelmanthorpe to Shelley junction) and the ‘coal board’ houses have been sold off and refurbished, along with the village’s attractive cottages.
Reflecting this trend, around four years ago, one of several of the village pubs – originally known as the Commercial, on High Street – was converted into an ‘eco-friendly’ restaurant and renamed The Green Man to convey this rural, organic image.
But then in spring 2010 a further transformation was undertaken and No 21 was created after former employees Alex Thwaite and Adam Marcham got together to finance and pioneer an ambitious business project and transform the ambiance of this former country pub into a city-style bar restaurant with a commitment to delivering tip top food served up with first class service.
The theme of No 21 is traditional English fare. Haddock and chips, sausage and mash and steak is the order of the day in the spacious converted lounge bar which gives the impression, paradoxically, of being a ‘cellar bar’ on ground level as you go downstairs to dine.
An outdoor eating area is also in the thinking of Adam and Alex, who should know more than most, drawing on a wealth of shared experience in catering and events management.
The pair have set out to "evoke the bustle, style and originality of city-centre dining" in this rural setting and lay on "themed" events.
It’s quite a challenge.
We paid them a visit on a Thursday evening and, having pre-booked for 8pm, arrived early to savour a pre-dinner drink. I ordered a lager and then a refill. The barman courteously informed me that it was running off and moved to change the barrel, but then said they hadn’t got any more. As I contemplated the alternatives he said they had also just run out of the bar’s feature lager, Peroni on draught.
Not the perfect start to the evening’s proceedings, but the third choice, Green King IPA, was still on and it was quite acceptable.
Despite the hiccups with availability, the ‘wet trade’ appeared to be going well with a sizeable gathering in the customers standing around the main bar area and a party occupying the corner seating area by the window.
We were ushered into the restaurant ‘reception’ area featuring comfortable chairs beside tables with glass tops covering newspapers and advertising clippings.
We were then shown promptly to our table down the stairs and beside a window.
The restaurant area is open plan with an attractive open fireplace in brick as its centrepiece. The decor is minimalistic – pastel shade ‘mushroom’ coloured walls and wooden floors. Wife Carol thought the effect was a bit stark and was overcome with an urge to redecorate it with some wall decorations – pictures/paintings, that sort of thing – to break up the bare expanses. She’s like that.
The eating area did, however, feature impressive interior window shutters.
Through an archway there is a large bar which was not in use and more tables round the corner, attractively laid out with black tablecloths and with chairs in black and red, which, like those in the reception area, were sturdy and comfortable.
At first we were the only people in the restaurant area, but part-way into our meal a couple of ladies took up a table opposite.
The affable gentleman from behind the bar, who I suspect hails not a million miles from Liverpool, doubled as the waiter and explained that the restaurant tended to be quiet early and mid-week. He took our orders – a shared seafood ‘Fruits de Mer’ platter of tiger prawns in chilli, lime and garlic, grilled mussels, oak smoked salmon, calamari, crayfish in lemon and dill butter, tartare sauce and warm crusty bread.
It was very tasty. In fact it was very, very tasty. Good marks for that, but subject to one slight tweak. The battered calimari was out of place served as it was with the delicately subtle flavours of the accompanying seafood.
For mains I went for the chicken forestiere and Carol opted for the baked sea bass.
My pan-fried chicken breast, cooked in a baby onion, button mushroom and pancetta sauce and roasted new potato pieces, arrived all plated up, with no asides. That surprised me, but what it lacked in colour and presentation was more than made up by its flavour. I had made a good choice.
Carol too was delighted with her fish, but did comment that while the taste was delicious, the fish portion was a tad on the small side.
Then for ‘pudding’ it was Vanilla Cheesecake served with a mango coulis. Carol gave this her full approval. I am not known for my sweet tooth or discerning palate when it comes to the sweets tray, but I can confirm that the cake just touched the spot. It was seriously delightful
All-in-all the one-man service was hospitable and efficient although that Thursday evening the dining area was somewhat lacking in atmosphere – and pictures.
21/23 High Street, Clayton West.
Tel: 01484 866060
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 12noon to 3pm and 6pm to 9pm, Saturday 12noon to 10pm and Sunday 12noon to 6pm
Children: Yes, welcome
The bill: £52.50 including all drinks
Would you go back?: Possibly