Devour at the Dyehouse is a culinary delight that shines a light on a little corner of Holme Valley, says Amanda Wragg. Pictures by Simon Hulme

Devour at the Dyehouse
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Even when Olivia Robinson was committed to her job as creative and brand director in the family firm, Mamas & Papas in Huddersfield she was dreaming about opening a farm shop somewhere, proving that food is never far from the mind of an Italian. Originally from Civitanova Marche on the east coast of Italy, Olivia’s family, the Scacchettis, put roots down in Huddersfield in the 1980s, spotted a gap in the market and launched the hugely successful baby wear company.

Olivia got her wish when Woodlands Mill in the flinty village of Thongsbridge went on the market. A two-storey stone built mill and separate dyehouse, it’s originally the home of The Moorland Wood-Turning Co Ltd. It’s had a stunning facelift and there are several nods to its past, with lofty roof trusses, wood floors, blasted stone walls and metal-framed windows overlooking Holme brook. It’s a vast space but is rescued from being clattery with the clever use of hanging plants and fabric upholstery soaking up noise. There’s a bar at one end and comfortable chairs for lounging. Olivia has a keen eye for vintage and she’s made some great finds, with bits of Ercol here and G Plan there, and shelves full of quirky, eye-catching bits and pieces. The whole place feels lived in, as if it’s been around a lot longer than a few months. The sun floods into the dining space from roof lights, Neil Young is warbling Heart of Gold, the menu promises some bone fide Italian belters, and I want to order the lot.

Spuntini (‘little nibbles’) include bread and olive oil and text book aranchini – light, moist, moreish rice balls flecked through with melting mozzarella explode with flavour. Despite some stellar choices in the ‘cicchetti’ section (pane con polpette, gamberoni diavola and a white rosemary pizza) the specials grab my attention. There’s a classic caprese salad and cozze – mussels with tomato, chilli and charred Altamura bread, of which more, later. Portofino fritto misto (£11) is a fine dish with fat prawns, squid and courgette sticks which have all had an incredibly light tempura treatment, and with a zingy lemon mayo and sweet baby roast tomatoes is a colourful triumph. A fresh burrata (£10) spills onto a pile of smoky prosciutto with a soft, peppery olive oil dressing – it’s all it needs. The last time I had this seductive soft mozzarella was in a scruffy roadside caff on the Puglian coast, and I’m transported.

Arrancini with Tomato and Buffala Mozzarella

There’s gnocchi with caponata on the specials too, but pizza beckons. At the business end of the restaurant there’s a busy open kitchen and a pizza station with a white-tiled wood fired beast of an oven, flames licking round the mouth. Just six to choose from including napolitana and margherita, but the talleggio e salsiccia is coming our way. My new-found obsession with fennel sausage is indulged in this ‘slice’ which is more like one of those huge oval platters you put your Christmas turkey on. The crust is perfect. The sausage bursts with flavour. The melting talleggio pulls it all together. It’s a thing of great beauty. A dish of lobster ravioli is completely unnecessary but man I’m glad it came. Dotted with pink peppercorns, the pasta perfectly al dente with a soft lobby centre, it sits in a sweet tomatoey broth scattered with prawns for good measure and is pretty as a picture.

A handful of pasta dishes (all pasta is handmade, in house) some good-looking steaks and salads make up the rest of the menu, with sides including marinated courgettes, crispy capers and whipped ricotta and patate al forno – rosemary & garlic Tuscan roast potatoes – I would have hacked my own arm off to get to those if I’d spotted them sooner.

The wine list is exemplary, all Italian and set out by region, and the Puglian Fiano is a fine match for the seafood. There’s beer from Magic Rock and Vocation alongside some good looking Italian bottles, prosecco and cocktails and you’re encouraged to kick back in the lounge with pane e olio, polenta fritta or pizza slices.

Rasberry Gelato

A word about the deli counter; it’s bursting with charcuterie, olives, cheese and Altamura bread made in the kitchen here with Apulian durum flour – I’m not sure I’ve had it before and it’s a revelation, with a thick, dark crust and a sharp acidity which comes from the mother dough. A quick google tells me it’s been made the same way as far back as 37 BC, and prompted the Latin poet Horace to call it the ‘best bread in the world’. From time immemorial, the womenfolk would prepare the bread dough and take the loaves to the public oven to bake it, scoring the tops with their ‘signature’ so they knew which was whose. There’s a gelato counter too, and again it’s all made in house, and alongside, trays of pasticini, with cannoli and ‘torte della nonna’. Other ‘dolce’ includes tiramisu, panna cotta and mille foglie (layers of custard and pastry with strawberry sorbet) but we’re full as eggs so make do with a classic affogato, ‘vanilla gelato with a shot of la-di-da espresso’. It’s a fitting end to a good lunch.

There are a couple of young chefs in the kitchen, Amy Vance and Carl Frost, who clearly know what they’re doing. The ‘Italian food made with love’ thing shines through and the entire operation is smooth and well thought-through. Service is sweet. A rather special place has emerged in this slightly forgotten corner of the Holme Valley.

Devour at the Dyehouse, Luke Lane, Thongsbridge, Holmfirth HD9 7TB t: 01484 684793

Wednesday to Saturday: 12pm – 10:30pm, Sunday: 12pm – 8:00pm. Monday / Tuesday: Closed

About The Author

Mandy Wragg is a freelance food journalist, writing and inspecting for the Yorkshire Post, Alastair Sawday, the Morning Advertiser, the AA, Cool Places and David Hancock's Inn Places. She co-writes, an independent guide to eating, drinking and staying in Yorkshire.

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