A basement may not sound like the most inviting restaurant location.
Suggesting it was probably an even bolder choice due to the waterfall of rain falling outside.
But no sailing boats were needed when my boyfriend Will and I landed at Nelson’s Vegetarian Wine Bar in Hebden Bridge, a cosy respite from the worst of the Pennine weather.
Giving off more of an informal pub vibe than that of a bistro, the subterranean haunt situated next to a Nisa local can be easy to pass by in the town centre street.
But over the past 18 years it has become a mainstay of the local dining scene, serving up wholesome and cheaply-priced food for anyone who walks through its doors.
However, as Will and I found out, its burgeoning bar stocked with an all vegetarian or vegan selection was the real hidden gem of the night.
Hebden Bridge has been no stranger to vegetarian fare, at least since creative types flocked to squat and live in its old mill buildings from the 1970s.
But Nelson’s Wine Bar on Crown Street is just one of two fully vegetarian restaurants to have made a permanent stake in the town, along with Greens Vegetarian Cafe and bistro.
We arrived at 6pm, when food officially starts to be served.
Already the two-room venue was buzzing with friends keen for a wind down drink and snack after work.
We found one of the last remaining rustic wood tables with a candle lit in the midst of all the chatter, steam probably coming off us as the rain evaporated off our soggy selves.
The small A5-sized menu was already on the table, which displayed a variety of bar snacks proving popular with those around us.
The classic homemade hummus was joined by spring rolls, olive tapenade, burgers paninis and more, all of which came in generous portion sizes.
Hungry for a main course, we found our way to the large black board facing the bar which carries what restaurant boss Nuno Lopes described as a mix of “popular classics” with changing dishes that the “chefs try to adapt to the seasons.”
Pastas, a chilli, mezzes, middle eastern and traditional British fare was all on offer, with a vegetarian twist.
Fans of halloumi would have been in heaven with several dishes based around it, while there was a raft of other cheese-filled options.
The range of fully vegan dishes was a tad disappointing, with only a few options available.
Perhaps asking to have the meal without the cheese would have been possible but at a purely vegetarian restaurant we did expect there to be a wider variety of lactose free choices.
We ordered at the bar to friendly staff, where a wide variety of bottled beer, cider, spirit and wines were stocked.
Will went for one of the several Mytholmroyd’s Little Valley Brewery beers, the Tod’s Blonde.
I took advantage of the wine menu which included several vegan options and walked back to the table with a big glass of shiraz.
Our main courses arrived quite quickly – a vegan pesto and vegetable pasta dish and a large plate of vegan sausages stuck into a pile of mashed potato and homemade onion gravy.
They were arranged in a pyramid shape, which aptly summarised the colossal task Will had on his hands to try and eat it all.
His mash had a creamy texture and was flavoured with thyme, while his sausages were full of flavour and were complemented by the gravy.
He said he could have done with some greenery though to brighten up the plate and to give it more variety.
My pasta came dressed with plenty of pine nuts, caramelised onions and peppers but not much in the way of protein.
I also didn’t find much in the way of the pesto but a very peppery and curry tasting seasoning instead, which was helped by a good glug of olive oil.
The winning part was the garlic bread, baked to the right amount of crunch and rich in flavour – a treat for non dairy eaters on a night out.
We both wandered back over to the bar to order desserts, to find that the one vegan option of a Passion fruit and exotic fruit slice was off the menu, a bit of a let down again for vegans thinking a vegetarian restaurant would cater well for them.
However, Nuno did say that it was a one off and usually there is “at least” one vegan after dinner treat.
But Will plumped for the white chocolate and berry sauce cheesecake, which went down a treat.
It was a shame we had to leave to catch a show in Huddersfield, because we both agreed we could have a happy night working our way down the drinks menu.
A good, thriving bar, it was a great find for vegetarians and meat eaters alike wanting a drink in lively surroundings and to enjoy some filling snacks, or to sample a vegetarian menu.
Hopefully if more enterprising dairy free options begin to emerge from the kitchen it could be a delight for the hungry vegans too.
Crown Street, Hebden Bridge, HX7 8EH
Tel: 01422 844782
Opening hours: From 5pm until finish every day apart from Mondays. Food served from 6pm to 9pm.
Children: Allowed until 9.30pm.
Disabled access: No
The bill: £28.50 for two mains, two alcoholic drinks and one dessert.
Would you go back? Yes, for drinks and snacks with friends.