The restaurant world is full of what might have beens.
So it’s good to report on a real success story in the heart of Meltham, in the shape of Quirky Corner.
Chef Kyle Hopkins is now entering his fifth year behind the hob at the fine-dining restaurant, tucked away right in the heart of the village.
And his culinary expertise means that people come back, and back, and back. They do so for food that is of top-notch quality.
He is a man who honed his skills in several other notable Huddersfield restaurants but is now delighted to be running his own business.
The aptly-named Quirky Corner is a tiny gem; it caters for only 23 people at a time and has established such a good reputation that many are often turned away when they try to book for a busy night.
That has not proved an issue so far but now Kyle is planning to take the bull by the horns and has ambitious plans. He and his partner Rachel are planning to take over the adjoining Meltham Conservative Club, which closed last December, and open “Quirky 2”, as a 50-cover restaurant.
The existing premises would be retained as a tapas bar. It will mean more jobs for the village but also a massive demand on the talents of chef Kyle. The challenge is one that excites Kyle, who is clearly at home in the kitchen or the prep room.
He prides himself on sourcing most of his ingredients from local suppliers and is especially proud of his contacts who supply him with game, such as venison, duck, hare and rabbit, which often feature on the menus and the specials board.
He began his career at the Golcar Lily in Bolster Moor and since then has worked at places including Bradleys, Nosh and the Huddersfield Hotel.
He also confessed to a stint at a major chain but admitted that the “cook ‘em in bulk and microwave” approach was not his thing.
Our visit on a Saturday evening came on the eve of a holiday week, which was heavily booked.
My wife Linda was brought up in Meltham and remembers the premises now housing Quirky Corner were a furniture and upholstery firm, offering repairs. Things have changed dramatically. The odd-shaped space inside is on two levels, with the kitchen to the left and the bulk of the tables down the steps to the right.
The Quirky name comes through in odd ways, like the backwards-running clock above the bar and the bathroom weighing scales in the toilets; surely not the best move when faced with such tempting dishes?
And that’s the key to the Quirky success: excellent food, cooked well and served with thought.
The menu is not huge and that’s always a good sign in my view. It’s an indicator that food is made to order and not languishing somewhere keeping warm. Five starters and half-a-dozen main courses on the current menu were backed up by a couple of specials on the board.
We were brought an ice-cold bottle of water without having to ask for it as well as some deliciously-warm crusty bread rolls as we made our choice.
The starters included vegetable soup, a blue cheese salad and pate, but Linda went for one of the specials as a starter, picking Chinese flaky duck with sweet chilli jam and pancakes.
The duck was moist and tender and the jam had that essential sharpness.
I toyed with the soup and the Icelandic prawns but eventually opted for chicken liver pâté. It came with an excellent crisp fresh salad and balsamic toast and was excellent; not too strong yet with a rich flavour. pâté can often be overpowering but this was right on the button.
As a man of simple tastes, I cannot resist lamb, and again went down the lamb shank road. It was one of the specials and I was told I had cornered the last of the day.
It was an inspired choice, though I say it myself. The lamb was pink and moist in the middle and superbly seasoned and flavoured. The mash was creamy and comforting, while the spring vegetables that surround it were exactly as they should be: soft parsnips, crisp carrots and sweet green beans and mange tout.
Linda was tempted by the fish on offer but followed me as a carnivore and picked roasted belly pork.
She was more than happy with two large chunks of meat and the sharp tanginess of the accompanying mustard mash and vegetables.
We enjoyed a bottle of Quirky Merlot and a lager with the meal and admitted it would be a step too far to go for a pud, even though those we spied on an adjoining table looked sorely tempting ... Perhaps next time.
3 Huddersfield Road, Meltham, Huddersfield, HD9 4NJ
Tel: 01484 859523
Opening hours: 12pm-2pm Tuesday to Friday, 6pm-9pm Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm-4pm Sunday
Disabled access: Access and toilet
The bill: £47.40 inc drinks
Would you go back? As soon as possible