WAS it really 12 months ago when I stood with hundreds of others and watched as decades of Huddersfield history went up in flames?
The blaze at Hinchliffe’s Farm in Netherton was one of the biggest in the town for years and left behind a scene of utter devastation.
It killed 200 chickens but heroic rescue efforts by farm staff and the fire brigade meant all the other animals were saved.
And now, exactly a year on, there is a tangible air of optimism at Sunnyside Farm.
It was my first visit back to the site in Netherton Moor Road since that dreadful July 5 night and it was a true delight.
If the standard of fare served up when Hinchliffe’s restaurant began serving evening meals again last weekend is anything to go by, the future is looking very good indeed.
As you would expect, the menu leans heavily towards meat and in particular to the beef from Hinchliffe’s own cattle herd.
We are talking seriously good steaks, with a variety of cuts and a seemingly endless menu of accompaniments.
The very fact that the business has been able to rise Phoenix-like literally from the ashes is testimony to the hard work of the staff and the drive of managers and owners.
Many have worked at the farm and, latterly at the shop and restaurant, for many years.
They appreciate the solid foundations laid down by the faming family which set up in Netherton 1929 and moved to Sunnyside Farm in the early 1950s.
The business is currently run by the second, third and fourth generations of the Hinchliffe family, and they are determined to get the business back to what it was.
Within days of the fire last July, staff had managed to rig up a shop in a small marquee yards away from the blackened remains of the previous shop, restaurant and butchery.
The marquees are still there but forget all those image of a soggy, canvas contraption, damp to the touch and cold and unwelcoming.
We are talking luxury marquees here, complete with huge feature lamps, subtle lighting, carpets and air-conditioning.
Even the corridors leading to the loos have been painted in subtle shades and fitted with skirting boards to banish the “temporary” feel.
One half of the huge structure houses the shop but the other, with glass panelled walls on two sides, is the restaurant, which has tested itself in recent weeks with lunches and snacks.
Outside, offering a stunning vista stretching from Castle Hill to Emley Moor, is a large decked area – perfect for an ice-cold lager and a chilled Pinot Grigio as we arrived on a warm evening.
And the welcome was as warm as the weather, with young waitresses showing us to a table to chill out as we studied the menu.
There were nine starters, ranging in price from £4.25 to £8.95, and offering something a little different.
Linda picked a crayfish cocktail, which promised a not so subtle kick from the Tabasco sauce, while I went for the potted smoked fish pate with saffron aioli, salad and toast.
As the chef began work, we were ushered inside to a corner table with stunning views out over the countryside.
Both starters were excellent. The pate was smooth but strong, while the crayfish offered a much meatier choice than the traditional prawns.
For the main course, it had to be a steak, but which one?
Five different cuts, each described in glowing terms on the menu – and illustrated with a drawing of a cow.
It seemed a little harsh to be eating a chunk of beef with the next providers in the sheds only a few hundred yards away.
In the end, I plumped for fillet, which came cooked as ordered (medium rare) on a wooden platter, topped with a subtle garlic and herb butter.
I eschewed the sauce options and selected “proper” chips, deep fried in beef dripping, a salad and portobello mushrooms in garlic as the accompaniments.
The inch-thick steak was perfect, still moist and pink inside and holding all the seasoning for each mouthful.
Linda toyed with the idea of salmon but instead chose grilled spring lamb, which turned out to be three thick chops served on a bed of spinach, red onion and garden peas. The one hiccup in the whole evening came when her meal arrived without the promised new potatoes, but the size of the portions meant they would probably have been a step too far.
Again, the meat was perfectly cooked and sweet, while the onions provided a tangy sharpness to counteract it.
We’d stayed on the lager and the white wine, but could have opted for any one of a number of reasonably-priced wines, supplied locally.
Desserts were tempting – creme brulee, toffee pudding, fruit crumble – but you can have too much of a good thing.
It was a great evening, with the sun setting over the distant hills just as we finished.
And then came the bonus: we’d got a 50% discount on our food, as a “Thank you” to customers returning to sample the fare.
Full marks to a proud local company for their amazing return.
Netherton Moor Road, Netherton
Tel 01484 661231
Opening hours Mon-Fri, 9am-5.30pm, Fri/Sat 9am - 4.30pm, 6pm - late, Sun - 10am - 4pm
The bill£41.08 (inc food discount)
Would you go back?Absolutely