True North, Halifax

Back in the early- to mid-2010s, long before the words “unprecedented” or “times” had been invented, this place was a semi-regular Friday night haunt of mine.

I don’t mean the restaurant True North of course; that’d be weird because it didn’t yet exist, but the popular comedy night which took place in the café where the restaurant now sits.

Seven quid would get you a ticket to see three or four usually-very-competent comedians, and by perching on the bar-stools at the back and sitting absolutely still so as not to attract any attention to yourself, you were pretty much free to relax and enjoy the merriment and mirth out of harm’s way as week blended into weekend.

(I still occasionally wonder if hip young BBC DJ Elis James had his fee docked for breaking a microphone stand in what was, contrary to how that sounds, a completely non-aggressive but very funny twenty-minute slot.)

Since late 2019 True North has inhabited the same space down there at Dean Clough. I imagine that they were just hitting their stride before all The Bloody Stuff happened, but going by tonight’s socially distanced full house for their Friday Social it hasn’t taken them long to get back into the swing of things.

Apologies for the clumsy segue, but here’s another solid way in which to get your weekend started.

It’s a simple affair. You sit there giving the wine list a good go while you’re brought plate after plate of good stuff to eat until you submit, declare ‘no more’, and crawl first into an Uber and then into yer bed.

There is minimal effort required of you and no pesky choices to be made. If one dish works its particular charm, ask for seconds and they shall arrive. It’ll cost you £21 per person plus booze, which is thoroughly reasonable to say that you won’t need to eat for 3 weeks afterwards.

We get amongst old friends such as punchy little chorizos in tangy cider, and crispy patatas bravas with tomatoes laced with chilli. There are chunky mounds of meaty sardines on crunchy slices of bread, and mini globes of arancini adorned with saffron mayo.

Amazingly, the kitchen pulls off the biggest trick of all by transforming sweet potato wedges into something I actually want to eat, nailing the crunchy-soft contrast of old-school chips and dousing them with salty goats cheese for good measure. I nearly ask for more, but there are crispy duck gyozas and some niftily cooked steak with a zippy herb sauce to contend with. Like I said, there’s plenty of it.

This might not be cooking that challenges – I think we’ve all had enough of challenges these last few months – but these are well-executed little plates of broadly Spanish bits and pieces, delivered by a team who are happy to see you. Now, when local businesses need local support more than ever, is not the time to be snarky, but even if these were times of normality I can’t find much to pick holes in. Maybe chuck a bit of bread on the table for dredging purposes.

Tonight’s my first meal out since I enjoyed a good pie back in February that was, alas, never written up because I didn’t think people would’ve been that arsed to read about some pastry that I scoffed BC (Before Covid) while this pandemic was doing its damage. True North is a safe and welcoming place to visit after some trying times. Tables are distanced but there’s nothing clinical about the experience. Small details – lighting, music – have been given serious attention, and Halifax has another spot to show off about.

The welcome is genuine and warm. It’s good to be back eating (kind of) chips in a restaurant.

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