Love Your High Street: Food and drink are at the heart of our high street

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Independent food and drink outlets are the heart of our high streets.

Tucked down side streets, above shops and between businesses, these outlets are offering a personal touch and a unique experience for their customers.

As part of its Love Your High Street campaign, the Express is showcasing the best that our high streets have to offer. This week we are taking a look at some of the independent eateries that are supporting our high streets, and our taste buds, to thrive.

Spending on food, drink and eating out has been rising steadily each year, with the average household now spending £52 a week, almost 10 per cent of their total income, on visits to restaurants, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Across the district, independent restaurants, cafes, pubs and breweries cater to our every need, offering everything from curry and cakes to cocktails and coffee.

“Customers come back because they get a special service,” said Dana Russell, who runs Queen’s Mill Tea Rooms, in Castleford.

“I think it’s the warm welcome.

“You really get something individual with us. We know people’s names and people keep coming back.”

This festive season, the Express are asking you to do your bit to support local businesses.

Give your local coffee shop a chance, or treat yourself to dinner at that restaurant you’re always hearing about.

For Chris Beal, who runs The Twisted Tree, it is important to give customers and staff alike the chance to voice their opinions.

Since opening in 2017, The Twisted Tree, inside the former Mexboro’ Arms Hotel building on Whitwood Common Lane, Castleford, has wasted no time in establishing itself as a community favourite.

“Everyone has a voice,” said owner Chris Beal. “Our customers appreciate the fact that food is freshly cooked and none of it is brought in or processed, and the girls who work out front are fantastic.

“It’s got a very personal feel about it, a lot of people come very regularly because they know the individuals.

“We don’t want to do anything clever, we just want to keep growing. We keep things small and add a little bit at a time, and eventually the customers tell us what they want.

“We like to hear how they feel about things. We don’t try to be for everybody, but the niche we’re hitting, I think they like us.”

With separate breakfast, daytime and evening menus, The Twisted Tree offers options ranging from halloumi fries to salmon fillet salad to smashed avocado with poached eggs.

The restaurant, which shares its building with Twisted Vintage jewellery shop, also owned by the Beal family, offers a variety of wines, beers and gins, in a relaxed, rustic setting.

“I want my customers to come in, have a great coffee and come out with a smile on their face.”

Hidden in plain sight in Pontefract town centre, DJ’s Diner offers a range of snacks and light lunches, including pastries, cakes and tarts.

Richard Deguil opened the cafe, on Maud’s Yard, Pontefract, with his wife Debbie in 2007.

Mr Deguil, a classically trained French chef who has worked in Michelin starred restaurants in France and India, makes all the food on sale, and even crafts his own blend of coffee, which he describes as “a bit continental, but suits the English character.”

He said: “We’ve got the whole spectrum of customers. I know probably 95 percent of my clientele, most by name.

“I want them to have a good time, not just to be a number. I’m not in it for money.

“I couldn’t sell the way I’m selling if I wasn’t making it.

“ I’m very proud of what I do, I do everything to my best ability and I get really, really good feedback.”

Situated on the banks of the River Aire, Queen’s Mill Tea Rooms offers homemade food and friendly service to a steady stream of regular customers.

Dana Russell, who owns the tea rooms, says that their customers value the level of service that the independent cafe brings them.

“People like tradition,” she said. “We use the building’s heritage to bring history back to life.

“We like to keep the traditions up. We do a lot of afternoon teas, and that’s what we’re known for in Britain.

“It’s somewhere to go for special occasions, somewhere you can have the opportunity to sit down with your family and celebrate.”

Queen’s Mill, also known as Allinson’s Mill, was once thought to be the largest stone grinding mill in the world, and is now managed by Castleford Heritage Trust.

Queen’s Mill Tea Rooms is open from 10am to 4pm on Monday and Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday, and 11am to 4pm on Sunday.