The new-look Piece Hall in Halifax is a must-see place to visit during the day, but now has the added attraction of being open in the evenings for drinkers and diners.
In fact, the 18th century cloth merchants’ edifice, which recently underwent a £19m transformation, looks stunning after sundown when the paved interior courtyard, with its stepped water features, sparkles from artfully-placed spotlights.
There’s something quite magical about it.
In one corner there’s a gin bar, serving the hipster drink in its many manifestations.
There’s also a restaurant open in the evenings. (In addition, during the day there’s an ice cream parlour and delicatessen).
Just off another corner of the quadrangle and through cleverly-placed double doors lies The Square Chapel Arts Centre and its new cafe bar, created by attaching the 18th century red brick chapel to the Piece Hall with a smart, contemporary extension. It can also be approached from outside the South entrance to the hall.
I first dined there at Christmas with some friends and enjoyed both the food and the ambience.
The bright, airy, open space has a spectacular angular ceiling, etched glass picture windows, an on-trend polished concrete floor and a menu of snacks, hearty mains, tapas-style platters and pizzas.
It’s a great pre-theatre venue for Square Chapel customers.
In the dull days of January, I suggested to the Man-in-Charge that he might enjoy a meal there. He was surprisingly enthusiastic – the reason for which became clear soon after our arrival.
It transpires the Square Chapel cafe bar stocks a pleasing range of cask ales and craft beers, of which he was eager to partake after hearing about them from a friend.
And if he was partaking of an alcoholic beverage then so was I, although my taste runs to gin rather than ale.
So, it was a half of dark and rich 6.3% Medjool date and liquorice porter for him, and a delicious rhubarb gin and Fevertree tonic for me, which got us feeling nicely relaxed.
The food menu, which is changed on a regular basis and promises locally-sourced ingredients, was offering a small selection of home-baked pizzas (£5 to £10.50), a chestnut and leek risotto (£7), chicken pie (£7.50), beef stew (£6.50), sandwiches (£5 to £6.50), soup of the day (£5) and three platters – Mexican meat or vegetable and a cold meat version (£10 per person).
Before Christmas I’d enjoyed a festive platter and my only complaint was the vast quantity of food that arrived and then had to be squirrelled away in tinfoil for later.
This time I thought I’d opt for the Mexican vegetarian platter and see if the food was still being doled out in epic proportions (it was).
Himself decided to go completely off piste and order a pizza with the unusual toppings of lemon chicken, Roquefort cheese, pine nuts and rocket.
The platter easily had enough food for two - there were bowls of rich, savoury vegetable chilli, mini roasted potatoes with chilli, moist quinoa salad, brown rice, red onion salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips, alongside a dish with two red pepper and halloumi skewers and a slice of dark chocolate and chilli cake. A complete meal, with all food groups and courses on one wooden tray.
As predicted, I had to request rescue by tinfoil (the potatoes and rice made a healthy accompaniment to a dish of baked salmon the following day at home).
The Man-in-Charge was quietly impressed with his medium-sized pizza and scoffed the lot.
The seemingly random selection of toppings did, he said, go surprisingly well together and the base was as authentically thin as any we’ve had in Italy.
As we fished through our pockets for cash to pay, we realised the bill was going to come to the princely sum of £26.30, including our drinks – and we had food to take away. A bargain indeed.
The service was swift and the dishes delivered with a smile.
While waiting for food you can browse what’s on at the theatre. It’s cafe culture, quite literally, at its best.
I loved the feel of this warm and welcoming bar/cafe on a dank winter’s day and I’m already planning my next visit, to see what further treats the chefs have in store.
Peering even further into the future, in the summer months, we might even be able sit outside and enjoy the patio.
10 Square Road, Halifax, HX1 1Q G
Phone: 01422 353073
Opening hours: Cafe and Bar are open from 10am until late every day. Food is served from noon until 8pm
Disabled access: Full access
The bill: £26.30 for two
Would you go back? Most definitely!