The quest to find somewhere decent for tea without needing to utilise the rail network took us to Ricci’s Place, down near the bus station in Halifax. That it’s a short schlep from the Victorian Beer Cafe – a tiptop spot to whet the whistle with a few aperitifs of that new-fangled beer malarkey – is welcome.
We’ve filled our faces (satisfyingly so,) at the Tapas and Cicchetti gaff a couple of times, and had a fleeting lunch here a few weeks ago. A recent refurb provides a bit more exposed brick and a big-old vaulted ceiling. The resultant bouncy hubbub on a tightly packed night like this – clattering crockery; booze-soaked conversation; a semi-open kitchen not shy of being heard – makes for a lively atmosphere.
There’s a new Starship Enterprisey entrance, too. An exciting development.
It’s a broadly ‘Italy meets Spain’ menu – ‘Pasta’, ‘Risotto’, ‘Fish’, ‘Meat’, – with a couple of sojourns further afield should you be feeling adventurous. This is Halifax, after all.
Putting aside my disdain for the word ‘nibbles’ and its place on menus (reminds me too much of ‘munchies’), it’s from this section that we kick things off, and which shows a confident kitchen getting things, mostly, on the money.
Salt cod croqettas had the requisite golden crunchy outer, with a bechamel filling generously studded with rich fish and bitey spuds. Three golfballs of the stuff cost £4.50. No wonder it’s rammed.
Christ, they even manage to make halloumi taste nice. Whether it’s them buying good stuff in, them doing good things to it when it lands, or, probably, a bit of both, this was a chargrilled, salted, and cahaca-doused 4 quid steal.
The terms ‘literally’ and ‘meltingly tender’ are prone to overuse; the latter, mostly by us. Here, however, both can be accurately deployed to describe the creamy fat edging the house special – Jamon Iberico – as it started to ‘give’ in the heat of the restaurant. Quality stuff, evidently well kept. The meat itself, ten quid for a plateful, had the rich hum of iron and blood.
The pretentious part of me wants to say that the two bumper-sized, crisp-skinned fillets of main course hake, propped up by a massed rubble of seafood, was too big a portion; the sheer bulk of stuff on the plate overwhelming.
But the Yorkshireman in me soon tells him to stop being a prissy bastard and get it down his neck. It’s £14 and it’s generous so be grateful. And once you dig down past the mussels and samphire there’s a buttery broth full of garlic and seafood tang that’s well worth the effort. So shut up.
Chips, – rattingly crisp – dredged through a rugged aioli were top drawer.
It seems unfair, given the good stuff we’d already necked, to linger too much on the waterlogged crab linguine (£9.50).
I reckon, and hope, that it was down to miscommunication; that our request for a short break before the mains didn’t get back to the kitchen. So whilst the pasta was ready, waiting and obtusely continuing to cook on the pass, we were taking respite with important things like smoking cigarettes and checking social media.
Or something like that. But anyhoo. One hiccup aside, hats off to Front of House for being slick, attentive and genial folk.
Wine-wise, you can chuck some good stuff down without spending upwards of the high teens, which is precisely what we’ll be doing when we go back to give that linguine another going over.