It's new, it’s right in the centre of Holmfirth and it’s something of a Tardis.
Aldea Mediterranean restaurant has taken over the prime position where Les Caveaux tapas bar and restaurant used to be and now is on all three floors where it’s predecessor only had the cellar and the top floor, which made it something of logistical challenge to operate.
But the Aldea owners always felt it had potential for something really special if the whole building ever became available. So when they got the chance to get the ground-floor too, they grabbed it.
It’s clearly a major investment transforming it into a chic, bistro-style setting complete with wooden floors and what I’d like to call ‘proper’ wooden tables.
So where does the Tardis fit into all this? From the outside it seems quite compact but step through the door and you feel it opens out. Downstairs it winds its way around the corner providing snug little hidey holes for those wanting something a little more intimate. The cellar has been transformed into a cocktail bar while the upstairs can cater for larger groups but still has plenty of room for tables of four with views out across the centre of Holmfirth towards the Picturedrome.
The main ground-floor restaurant can be a bustling place and was packed when we went early last Saturday evening. Rather less of a Tardis is the kitchen, which is completely open for the diners to see. Gordon Ramsay would struggle in there to keep a lid on his lip; but when we were there it ran with military precision with the chefs working feverishly together in the tight space.
There’s no room in that kitchen to let things boil over – especially tempers – so it depends on top teamwork to keep things under control.
We were upstairs which was an oasis of peace and calm at first and great to chat as there were four of us.
Now the menu is something of a mix and match affair. There’s small plates and main plates. The small plates are either starters or tapas and the main plates are traditional main courses.
So you can have three or so small plates each or one small and a main, a few small and a main if you’re ravenous or I guess they’d do your small as a main if you wanted.
Still following? Don’t worry, they’ll explain it all to you when you go.
To keep things simple we went for tapas but, wait for it, threw in one large plate too for us all to share. That was one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, seafood and chorizo paella.
The tapas included marinated chicken skewers, harissa paste and courgette; seared steak strips with sweet roasted piquillo peppers; panfried seabass with peas and chorizo cream; tagine of lamb and apricots with spiced cous cous; tortilla of the day; grilled halloumi, falafel and poached egg salad.
We thought we’d be waiting ages. It arrived within minutes more or less together with a never-ending procession of waitresses turning up with a dish every few seconds. That’s military precision for you.
The paella’s sticky yellow rice was perfect and the chorizo was cooked just to that tender bite-straight-through stage with mussels dotted all over in their shells – a great example of a classic dish.
The long, red peppers were stuffed with a large cous cous while our vegetarian diner loved the grilled halloumi, the spiced-up falafel and the egg. Stand-out dish was the panfried seabass, the epitomy of ultra tender fish in a creamy chorizo-blessed sauce. The seared steak was spot-on medium and gave a whole new slant on a way to cook the meat. Small can certainly be very good.
The tagine was a rich, meaty, full-on dish while the large chicken skewers were large and again oh-so tender. You’d be crazy not to get the twice-cooked chips and if you ask nicely they’ll even give you a tiny jug of vinegar to go with them.
Other main plates include pan-roast breast of chicken, thyme risotto, sautéed chanterelles and chicken jus; herb-crusted rack of lamb with ratatouille; pan-seared hake fillet with wilted kale, clams, chorizo and fish veloutte; crisp pork belly with creamed potato and glazed carrot; spinach, pine nut and feta cheese filo pie, Mediterranean vegetables and basil oil.
The sweet plates enticed us and the Creme Catalana with homemade ginger bread is the Spanish version of our creme caramel, but their’s has a subtle orange flavour once you break through the caramel. You’ll find nothing more melt-in-the-mouth than the sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce.
Service was really good – always with a smile and staff eager to explain anything to do with the menu or the restaurant.
11 Victoria Square, Holmfirth, HD9 2DN
Tel: 01484 689003
Opening hours: Tues-Thurs noon-2pm; 5.30pm-9.30pm; Friday and Saturday noon- 2pm; 5.30pm-10pm; Sundays noon-4pm. Closed Mondays.
Disabled access: Yes to ground-floor dining area and disabled toilet.
The bill: £117.05 for four including two carafes of wine
Would you go back? Yes