City Tastes & Tipples: Val’s became Al’s to keep the stories alive

Al Robinson has funded more than �70,000 of refurbishments at the cafe.
Al Robinson has funded more than �70,000 of refurbishments at the cafe.

Al Robinson grew up hearing stories of Val’s Cafe. His mother had fond memories of the tearooms, which she used to visit in her younger years.

“In that day and age they used to queue outside, people would come in and chat together, it was amazing,” Al explained.

The tea shop has been a staple feature of Kirkgate since it opened 35 years ago, though was in need of a refurbishment by the time Al got his hands on it.

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Since taking over the tea and coffee shop in early 2016, he has funded £70,000 of upgrades, replacing “everything from the kitchen to the toilets to the windows.”

He also dropped a letter in the name, and the tearooms simply became Al’s Tea and Coffee Shop.

He said: “My mum told me all these great stories about Val’s cafe and I thought ‘Right, I’m sure I can turn this around,’ and I did it. It’s taken me a couple of years to do it but we’re there.

“My mum can’t believe I bought it, she still mentions it all the time.”

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The cafe is a traditional English tea room which serves hot and cold beverages as well as a host of light snacks, including jacket potatoes, omelettes, salads and toasted sandwiches.

Before taking over the tearooms, Al worked as a manager at Warburtons. He said that his family were “amazed” when he took voluntary redundancy and decided to purchase the shop.

He said: “I just had this belief that we could turn it around using word of mouth.

“We have customers who have been coming here every week for 32 or 33 years and they’re still coming even now.”

Family friendly: Al’s extensive menu suits the whole family and features baby food, chicken nuggets, fish fingers and even fruit shoots for the little ones.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm, Saturday 8:30am to 3pm, Sunday 10am to 4pm.

Address: Al’s Tea and Coffee Shop, 61 Kirkgate, Wakefield, WF1 1HX