Wakefield has become something of a gourmet destination in recent years.

Most visitors to the eastern edge of the Pennines make a beeline for cultural attractions such as Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Hepworth Wakefield and Pontefract Castle. But what many people don’t know is that there’s an exciting food and drink scene emerging in the Wakefield district, from quirky independents to award-winning farm shops, fine-dining experiences and of course, the renowned rhubarb and liquorice festivals.

Great British Life: Housed in an old bank, Qubana in Wakefield City centre offers a vibrant fusion of Cuban and Spanish cuisineHoused in an old bank, Qubana in Wakefield City centre offers a vibrant fusion of Cuban and Spanish cuisine (Image: © Justin Sutcliffe 2019)

“We’re proud of our strong foodie heritage here in the district and the diversity of what’s on offer, from being rhubarb connoisseurs in the heart of the rhubarb triangle to the home of prize-worthy pies,” says Cllr Michael Graham, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport.

“And our hugely popular food and drink events that happen throughout the year are dedicated to celebrating our unique local produce, attracting thousands of visitors to the region each year to sample what we have to offer.

“It is so important to support local businesses – and there really is no need to go anywhere else due to the diversity offered by our independent eateries.”

Here, we take a look at why Wakefield is quickly becoming West Yorkshire’s favourite foodie destination.

Wakefield City's top independent bars and restaurants

  • The Golden Pineapple – a tiki bar with a Victorian twist, this vibrant venue offers exotic cocktails, tasty boa buns and a relaxed atmosphere.
  • RBT Video – behind the 80s video store façade (and password-protected door) lies a speakeasy-style cocktail bar. Think revamped vintage cocktails, pizza by the slice and unique neon artwork.
  • KRA:FT Koffee – a coffee shop by day and bar by night, this trendy independent serves up delicious bakes, craft beers and some of the city’s best speciality coffee.
  • LOT Wakefield – this pop-up is the perfect place to enjoy creative cocktails, beers, ciders and an alternating selection of food from the area’s best restaurants and cafes, all served from a converted ice cream van.
  • Qubana – Housed in a former bank with 19th-century architectural features, this impressive restaurant combines the vibrant cultures of Spain and Cuba with its fusion tapas menu. After-dinner cocktails can be enjoyed on the stunning rooftop terrace.

Unique food and drink festivals

Great British Life: Wakefield's annual Rhubarb Festival celebrates the area's unique food heritageWakefield's annual Rhubarb Festival celebrates the area's unique food heritage (Image: Experience Wakefield)

Every February, Wakefield’s Rhubarb Festival celebrates the city’s unique agricultural traditions with artisanal markets, live music, cookery demonstrations and walking tours of the famous forcing sheds, where the vegetable is grown in complete darkness.

Those with a sweet tooth won’t want to miss the annual Liquorice Festival, which takes place every July in Pontefract. The event honours the market town’s ties to the liquorice growing industry, where visitors can learn more about the history of this unusual plant and sample liquorice-infused food and drink, as well as the famous Pontefract cakes.

Award-winning farm shops

Great British Life: Farmer Copley's in Pontefract offers a wide range of fresh produceFarmer Copley's in Pontefract offers a wide range of fresh produce (Image: Farmer Copleys)

Surrounded by glorious Yorkshire countryside, it’s no surprise that the Wakefield district is home to an abundance of farm shops offering fresh, local produce, from organic fruit and vegetables to cheeses and meats.

Farmer Copleys in Pontefract, which was named Best Farm Shop of the year in 2019 by Guild of Fine Food, offers a fun day out for the whole family. Depending on the time of year, visitors can enjoy strawberry picking or taking part in the UK’s largest pumpkin festival. The farm also boasts 1,000 bees, which you can watch making honey.

Another firm favourite is Blacker Hall Farm Shop, renowned for its top-quality vegetables and award-winning beef. The Barn Kitchen is a great spot for lunch, with most of the produce sourced directly from the family farm.

Other must-visit foodie hotspots

Many of Wakefield’s most loved cultural attractions are also home to their own restaurants and cafés, where visitors can try some of Yorkshire’s finest produce in stunning surroundings.

The Weston restaurant at Yorkshire Sculpture Park offers local, sustainably-sourced dishes and panoramic views of the 500-acre Bretton estate. For something a little more metropolitan, The Hepworth Café in the art gallery serves all-day brunch with handcrafted coffees and loose-leaf teas.

For a special occasion, the four-star Waterton Park Hotel is the perfect spot for a sparkling afternoon tea with lakeside views, while Wentbridge House in Pontefract offers a stylish restaurant and brasserie with carefully crafted menus showcasing local and seasonal produce.

And of course, no visit to the district would be complete without sampling some good old-fashioned Yorkshire grub at the legendary Wakefield Pie Shop, accompanied by chips, peas and gravy.

To find out more about Wakefield’s food and drink offering, visit experiencewakefield.co.uk.