The railway line from Leeds to Selby was officially opened in 1834 by the Leeds & Selby Railway Co., (who else?) passing via Garforth. This stop was little more than a railway halt with no facilities, for many years.
However in 1872, the station acquired new buildings to include a ticket office, waiting rooms and a station masters house. The station has a very large, free car park for commuters and is very busy during the day, as the small town of Garforth has mushroomed to provide high density housing, serving as a dormitory town for Leeds, a mere six miles away.
For decades, the station master was known as ‘Old Tom’ and by all accounts he was the proverbial lifelong ‘railway man’ and something of a well-loved character.
With modernisation in recent years however, the need for a station master receded and the house became empty.
In August 2016 an enterprising local family opened the ‘Platform Hatch’ at the station.
It did exactly what it says on the tin, being a small hatch opening directly onto the platform, serving tea, coffee and sandwiches to commuters.
As this business took off, it was expanded into the old station masters house to become tea rooms and more recently, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings it is the Baranelli Bistro,serving up high quality southern Italian meals.
Leeds lady Jo and her Italian husband Luigi had always had a dream of opening their own Italian restaurant and their dreams have come true with a bang.
The small premises is beautifully decorated in a rustic Italian style, as one might expect, but they have done it so well, without being twee. It really is a little corner of Italy.
With simple wooden furniture the premises are spread over two intimate dining rooms on the ground floor and two even smaller dining rooms upstairs, as well as a cosy, small lounge. It is a wonderfully relaxing place to spend an evening.
We were greeted by Jo on arrival and made to feel right at home. We were a little early and were shown to the snug lounge where our drinks orders were taken.
We were soon shown to our table downstairs, and our drinks promptly delivered.
The imported Italian pale ale, by the bottle, was a delightfully hoppy, citrus pale ale which cleansed the palette. A personal recommendation for the Italian wine was spot on.
The menu lists a small selection of starters, quite a few home made pizzas, pasta dishes, several main choices and a small but select choice of desserts. Something for everyone over all budgets.
My friends shared a plank of anti-pasto, which was wonderfully fresh and tasty. It was meant for one person but was quite enough for two. A basket of complimentary Italian crusty bread with butter pats appeared at the table.
I had the tomato bruschetta starter. Again a hefty portion of thickly sliced bread with peppers, tomatoes, olives and olive oil, strewn with rocket leaves. Tremendously tasty.
My partner had fresh tomato and mozzarella salad, also declared to be top class.
The main of Tiger prawns in a tangy tomato sauce prompted a quote from my friend that he had never seen so many prawns on one plate!
MY pollo in Italian tomato and my partner’s creamily sauced pollo were deliciously large and tender hunks of chicken, whilst the beef dish was a sight to behold.
Four large pieces of oh-so-tender and tasty meat just fell apart at the threat of a fork.
Side dishes of rosemary potato – often tiny squares, but here presented as wedges, and grilled Mediterranean vegetables at a small extra cost supplemented the meals. These couldn’t be faulted.
These were all great combinations of Yorkshire portions and Italian style.
Yorkshire and Italy are a great match, as Jo and Luigi will no doubt testify.
Mains are around £15 and for the quality, quantity and superb service values, excellent value for money.
Towards the end of the evening, chef Luigi emerged to go round each of the tables, chatting to customers, something seldom seen elsewhere and a symbol of how this great place is run.
Our lovely Sicilian waitress was attentive, polite, friendly and chatty all evening.
Customer focus is often talked about but seldom achieved, unlike here.
It should be noted that there is a fairly steep wooden staircase with handrails to reach the first floor and lavatory. Don’t be alarmed about this restaurant being on a railway station, the rumble of the occasional passing train is barely perceptible.
Word of mouth recommendations about the fine quality of this place, in terms of the ambience, meals, cakes, pastries and superb staff is spreading quickly and it will get more and more difficult to book. It is a bit of a cliché to say that this is a hidden gem, but it is!
Plans are afoot to open Wednesday evenings too and for live entertainment, comedy and poetry nights to follow.
For further information go to www.thestationhousecafe.co.uk though at the time of this review the website is still under construction. I had hoped to include more details of the menu but requests for copies have not been forthcoming. It appears that though they may be lacking in administrative skills, cookery and hosting skills are not.
The restaurant can be found at LS25 2QQ or even direct to the door by train.
What a way to arrive for a superb meal.
Choo-choo to chew-chew?