The best things in life are often buried underground and The Keys restaurant and coffee house in
Huddersfield town centre certainly falls into that category.
Dropping down a few stairs into the rarefied air of the crypt under St Peter’s Church, proprietors Paul and Vicki Wood have a hard-won reputation over more than 10 years for producing some of the most memorable and best presented dishes in town.
And so it was on Wednesday lunchtime I took a glamorous, 30-something-waif, Diane Townley, down into restaurant heaven.
Diane was fashionably late and so I sat there nursing one of Mallinson’s excellent bottle-conditioned beers before she arrived in a majestic sea of black and gold cape.
I was tempted to misquote Shakespeare’s contemporary, the 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe’s unbeatable opening lines: “Was this the cape that launched a thousand ships?” but thought better of it and settled merely for removing her cape and pushing her chair forward a few inches.
Huddersfield is fortunate in having The Keys to hand as there are precious few other eateries to choose from of a lunchtime.
Not only were we able to choose from two varieties of soup but five other offerings including baked garlic mushrooms, beer battered crispy brie, salmon, dill and spring onion croquettes as well as crispy black pudding and leek potato cake.
The conversation flowed so well that the poor waitress needed at least four attempts before we could bring ourselves to glance at the menu let alone begin making decisions.
Eventually I plumped for the Spicy Carrot and Coriander soup with delicious bread roll which was a winner while Diane opted for the brie.
It was hard to choose between the mains. No fewer than eight were on offer including: Coq au vin, Fish and Chips, Crispy Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Chef’s Cottage Pie and Pan-fried Lambs Liver with crispy bacon, chive mash, roasted chantenay carrots, parsnips and caramelised onion gravy.
Diane eventually decided on the Wild Mushroom Risotto which was eagerly devoured, while, I, fuelled by an excellent bottle of Rioja, took slightly longer.
The pan-fried liver it was and with food this good for a while we were both rendered mute. Bliss!
The Keys is fortunate in having award-winning chef Paul Ellis who has worked at some of the best restaurants in Europe and his passion and enthusiasm for food shines through in every morsel.
Although we could have easily called it a day, duty called and we somehow managed to put down a Baked White Chocolate and Red Berry Cheesecake with cream (me), and a Dark Chocolate Brownie with Morello Cherries for Diane.
A couple of coffees rounded off a very enjoyable afternoon. The only shame is that this place does not open of an evening as it is hard to imagine a more convivial place in which to eat.
Diane said: “The Keys has a certain exotic charm and has a delightfully quirky setting. I’m looking forward to coming again and bringing my friends.
“The food was first rate and beautifully presented. It’s very hard to fault it and I can see why it’s so popular. There was plenty to choose from and all the dishes were perfectly cooked.
“It’s a very relaxing place to eat and for anyone wishing to escape the pressures and strains of modern day life coming in here for a couple of hours is a wonderful way to unwind.”
Byram Street, Huddersfield
Phone: 01484 516677
Opening hours: The Keys is open all week except Sunday. It serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. It is also open for a variety of special events during the evenings such as comedy acts and tribute nights.
Children: Most welcome and they have a separate children’s menu
Disabled access: It’s not easy because of a flight of stairs
The bill: £68.10 including wine and drinks
Would you go back? Yes, I certainly would