Mention the word ‘neighbourhood’ in connection with food and drink and a certain image springs to mind.
A good neighbourhood restaurant, bar or cafe is a place where you are welcomed like an old friend, where the food is better or different – preferably both – to the offerings chez vous.
It makes me think of the bar in the American series Cheers, or the cafe in Friends, a home from home for regulars. For others it’s the local restaurant they returned to night after night on their Continental holiday, practically becoming a member of the family by the time the fortnight was up.
It now thankfully looks like the worst of the recession is behind us and we are eating out more often than ever before. Yet even while it was biting hardest, Huddersfield had new restaurants opening every month.
A village restaurant quarter atmosphere is slowly appearing in the town centre with its growing number of eateries reflecting cuisines from many different countries. Likewise, many of the surrounding villages now have a choice of neighbourhood restaurants, often with the local Indian and Italian vying for people’s custom.
Many local restaurateurs are trying to keep their prices down to attract a clientele who will visit regularly.
One such is Franco’s in Almondbury, and in a similar vein, Gemelli opened in Holmfirth in May. It’s run by twin brothers Ignazio and Giancarlo from Sardinia, an island known for its warm people and full-blooded food and wine. Last Friday three of us put it to the test.
It’s hidden down an alley off Huddersfield Road and it took us a while to find, but once inside, our first impressions were favourable. Downstairs is a smart bar area with modern leather chairs and stripped floors. It was quiet on arrival, but buzzing by the time we left.
Upstairs the 50-cover dining room boasts high-backed leather chairs, beamed ceilings and brick and cream walls, coincidentally not unlike Franco’s, although the ceilings are a lot higher here.
The overall ambiance would be softer with a dimmer switch and candles on the tables. But my father was happy with the brightly-lit interior: “I like to see what I’m eating.”
The service, however, couldn’t be faulted. We were greeted warmly, shown to a pleasant corner table and seconds later served with bread and breadsticks to nibble on. Our drinks order was taken promptly by the friendly and efficient waitress who gave detailed descriptions of the specials.
The menu’s swirly Italian descriptions were a challenge, but fortunately the details were printed in English underneath. There’s an excellent choice of starters, a mixture of Italian classics and blackboard specials: a meat board, tricolore, ham and melon, crab meat salad, pork spare ribs, grilled vegetables and a whole page of focaccia breads, to name a few.
The mixed fish platter at £7.95 with whitebait, calimari and king prawn was definitely a dish which could have been shared. The fish was fresh and well prepared, although the batter could have been a little crisper. Nevertheless, a good start.
The blackboard special of figs with goats’ cheese wrapped in Parma ham was delightful. The sweetness of the fresh, juicy figs was matched perfectly by the chalky goats’ cheese and saltiness of the Parma ham. A winner.
Gemelli offers a good selection of well-priced pastas and pizzas ranging from £6.95 to £8.50, a little less than some local Italians. Their Early Bird is good value at £12.95 for any starter, pizza or pasta with a beer, wine or soft drink.
The salmon pasta was delicate with well balanced individual flavours, showing a light touch from the chef .
My veal (£13.95) comprised several smaller cuts, I would have preferred a single schnitzel-size piece, but the accompanying creamy tarragon sauce was delicious. And the margherita pizza was thin-based with a generous topping.
Sweets include panna cotta, apple pie, sticky toffee pudding, ice creams and specials. The tiramisu, beautifully presented with three spoons as requested, drew a surprisingly positive remark from my hard-to-please father: “It’s a beauty is this.” Praise doesn’t come any higher than that.
VERDICT: A good neighbourhood restaurant, it should do well
Gemelli Ristorante Pizzeria
10 Huddersfield Rd, Holmfirth HD9 3AY
Tel: 01484 680410
Website: being built
Opening hours: Orders – Tuesday-Saturday 5pm-10pm, Sunday 12.30pm-9pm
Children: Yes, of course
Disabled access: No, there are steps
Our bill: £ 18.95 a head including drinks
Best Deal: £ 12.95 Early Bird Tuesday-Thursday 5pm-6.45pm
Would you go back? For sure