Let’s Do Lunch at Wapentake

Stan finds himself exploring the meaning of the name, ponders on the omission of rhubarb and enjoys himself at Wapentake, nonetheless.

I may not be an expert in marketing but I was always under the impression that the purpose of putting signs outside business premises was to entice customers inside with a view to separating them from their hard earned cash. The one on the blackboard outside Wapentake seems intent on doing quite the opposite insofar as a certain demographic is concerned, but more of that later. First, I want to deal with the name…

A helpful chalkboard – there are lots of them here – gives the definition of Wapentake (rhymes with rattlesnake – my word not theirs) as being an administrative subdivision of the Ridings in Yorkshire. One hundred representatives would vote by a show of weapons. Oooo er missus! Luckily no motions were put forward requiring a division whilst I was there. The whole atmosphere of this pub/bar/diner is aggressively Yorkshire, from the beers through the artisan bread and cakes, to the ingredients used to construct the main dishes on the menu. The theme is continued on even more blackboards advising patrons to be careful of the change in floor level, ‘Ey up! Watch tha step,’ and pointing out that the rest rooms are on the first floor: ‘Lav’s upstairs, Luv.’ In order that I might check the second one out a bit later I asked for a pint of Kirkstall Brewery Pale Ale at £3.20. The beer was up to its usual high standard and well kept by the cellar man.

On the food front I ordered a Club Sarnie comprising chicken, bacon, cheese, tomato, lettuce and mayo which came with hand cut potato wedges. All of the items on the main menu are priced at £7.00 although there is a 50p supplement for the Steak and Caramelised Onion Sarnie. A really good touch is that for every dish on the menu there is a vegan version, including the roast. In case you are wondering, the vegan Steak Sarnie alternative is Vegan Flattened Portabella Mushroom with Caramelised Onions. This is so welcome for what is essentially up-market pub grub.

The sandwich arrived as described, along with a small bowl of what looked to be tomato ketchup but was actually a rather piquant chilli sauce. It took me somewhat by surprise when I dipped my first potato wedge in it but it was a wonderful way of livening up the whole dish. The main event was exactly what a club sandwich should be: three slices of toast with the bacon in one part and the chicken in the other. It also had the other essential attribute, being impossible to eat by picking it up with your hands unless you have a gob as wide as the Humber Bridge. There was the New York deli (or should that be New Yorkshire deli) trick of holding the ensemble together with a wooden skewer, in this case a necessity rather than an embellishment. Everything was perfectly cooked with the bacon not being cremated and the chicken tender, and the cheese gave it a lift whilst the salad ingredients were a refreshing counterpoint.

My only gripe with the food is that, although there is a strong emphasis on the Yorkshire provenance of the ingredients, there are no Yorkshire specific components like rhubarb or liquorice, nor was there a curd tart option from the bakery. Minor whinges I know but if you are going for a theme, go all the way. Once more, dear reader, I sacrificed the waistline for your benefit and went back to the bar to peruse the desserts. There is none as such but there was a display of tempting cakes. Having just been beaten to the last slice of chocolate and blueberry torte I decided on a piece of raspberry sponge at £2.50 and black Americano coffee £1.75. The cake was moist and melted in the mouth, the coffee strong without being bitter. All in all this was a wonderful lunch with service to match.

Now back to the sign outside. I did express my dissatisfaction vehemently to the man behind the bar because the blackboard read ‘Dog, Child and Grumpy Old Man Friendly.’ I pointed out that, as a fully paid up member of the latter group, the last thing I wanted was for the premises to be friendly. I pay my money to be miserable and have something to let off steam about, not to have a cosy chat. People who insist on making me welcome get right on my wick; I can feel my blood boil just thinking about it!!! And another thing…

Mange toutes,

Stan Graham

Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living.  He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds.  He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.

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