Welcome to Westgate, Wakefield’s Historic Street With a Bright Future

Eleanor Taylor, Experience Wakefield

Visitors to the city absolutely must experience Westgate, Wakefield’s well-known nightlife hotspot. 

Running like an artery right to the heart of the city (where it meets and intersects with other well-known thoroughfares, Kirkgate and Northgate), Westgate has long been known as a place to have a good time. It’s the home of the famous “Westgate Run” pub crawl, after all! 

The street – and wider area – is absolutely crammed with eateries, bars and pubs (with everything from sophisticated cocktails to rustic real ale). They offer good food, good drinks, good vibes and good music. But where to start? We’ve put together this essential guide to help you get the best from your evening out.

Bear Kitchen, Westgate, Wakefield

Bear Kitchen

Prego pizzeria, Westgate, Wakefield

A pizza at Prego Pizzeria on Westgate, Wakefield.

Delicious cuisine at Lala's, Westgate, Wakefield

Delicious cuisine at Lala's, Westgate, Wakefield

Dolce Vita, Wakefield

San Leo's

Food

Foodies have lots to enjoy. We’ll start at Bear Kitchen, tucked away on Westgate End. Although eating in is an option, Bear Kitchen specialise in takeaway – and they’ve put their own spin on it. With a passion for locally and ethically sourced produce, Bear Kitchen makes a lot of their food on site from scratch. This allows them to put their own twist on some classic fast-food staples.

A little further along Westgate is Prego Pizzeria. As the name suggests, Prego specialises genuine Italian pizza. They can even boast having Wakefield’s first wood-fired pizza oven! Prego promises food cooked from the best fresh ingredients, to closely guarded recipes, prepared in the traditional way – just like Nonna used to make. Buon appetito! 

Looking for a tasty curry on your night out? Lala’s is all about authentic Indian cuisine served up amid chic and stylish decor. They offer a whole world of flavours and spices which come together to create a dining experience that will transport you to another world.

Grill Pit Kitchen provides the dining at Counting House (more about them later!). As you might have guessed, they’re one for the meat-eaters. Enjoy gourmet burgers, meaty ribs, jumbo wings, Dr Pepper pulled pork, Wakey Parmos and lots more. Don’t forget to order their twice-cooked “proper” chips. Dig in!

Although technically not on Westgate, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you about Dolce Vita and San Leo’s. Dolce Vita is just a few steps from Westgate on Smyth Street, and the beautiful interior is a feast for the eyes as much as the delicious fine-dining Italian cuisine is a feast for the stomach!
San Leos (on Drury Lane) also offers mediterranean dining, but ranges as far as the Middle East and North Africa to bring visitors an eclectic (not to mention extremely appetising) mix of dishes and flavours.

Oh, and we couldn’t write a guide to Westgate without mentioning the Wakefield Pie Shop. A visit to this legendary establishment has been the de rigueur way to end a night out for generations!

Henry Boons

Harry's Bar on Westgate, in Wakefield

The interior of Harry's Bar on Westgate, in Wakefield

The Old Printworks on Westgate, Wakefield

The Black Horse on Westgate, Wakefield

The Black Horse

Lobby 1867 on Westgate, Wakefield

Lobby 1867

The Establishment

The Establishment

The Counting House

Exterior of Brick & Liquor, Westgate, Wakefield

Exterior of Brick & Liquor, Westgate

Drink

Good food’s not complete without good drink. Luckily, that’s something Westgate is definitely not short of! Westgate bars and pubs come in a variety of styles to suit everyone. 

The charming Victorian frontage of Henry Boons hints at the eccentric decor inside. This real ale pub holds regular gigs in The Yard Bar. All kinds of old fashioned bric-a-brac fill this space to create a cosy, bohemian atmosphere. 

A well-kept secret, small but mighty Harry’s Bar is hidden away at the end of a row of cottage-like buildings. The bar has a range of guest ales which change on a regular basis. Although small, Harry’s hosts live music nights where you can regularly come across acoustic evenings or see lively bands bringing the house down.

Equally tucked away is Harry’s neighbour, family-run The Old Printworks. Like Harry’s, The Old Printworks specialises in real ale, and has a regular programme of gigs to keep visitors entertained. 

The Black Horse pub is another haven of real ale. It is also the home of the “Sunday Sesh”, a regular jam session with live music and all things Country, featuring local talents Matt Hodges and many more.

Lobby 1867 is a stylish bar sitting inside historic Unity Hall. The handsome brick building, with its Venetian Gothic façade, is the perfect setting for Lobby, a place well aware of its roots, but firmly looking forward. By day, it’s a cafe serving up coffees and treats. Come the evening, it’s time for cocktails accompanied by live music, comedy, poetry and open mic nights. 

Next door, also in Unity Hall, is The Establishment. With its scrubbed pine floor, bare brick and tile walls and innovative light fittings, The Establishment is the epitome of cool. Enjoy a cocktail while eating a slice of pizza from the authentic pizza oven behind the bar. They also host tasting events, comedy nights, live music and more. 

On the other side of the road sits the appropriately named Brick & Liquor. The sandstone-and-brick facade looks like it would fit right into an up-and-coming neighbourhood in Brooklyn, and the trendy charm continues inside with bare edison bulbs lighting up cosy leather bar stools. Visitors can sample experimental cocktails – bubble G&T, anyone? – as well as high-end wines and beers, while enjoying live music, open mic nights, and regular games nights.

At the top of Westgate, in yet another historic building, sits The Counting House. The home of live sport (on their multi-screens and 8ft big screen), cocktails and tribute acts, the bar is committed to offering something for everyone to enjoy. They specialise in signature cocktails, (with locally-sourced Forged in Wakefield gin!) and offer bottomless brunches and a house DJ, too.

Westgate Unitarian Chapel

The Art House. Photograph by David Lindsay

Things to do

Westgate’s not just about food and drink – it’s a bit of a cultural hotspot, too. Heritage buffs will appreciate Westgate Unitarian Chapel. This fine Grade II listed Georgian building has intriguing original details. Look out for open days and events. On those select days, visitors can tour the chapel itself as well as its fascinating (and eerie) catacombs. 

Its street address might be Drury Lane, but it is impossible to talk about Westgate without mentioning Theatre Royal Wakefield. Famous Victorian architect Frank Matcham designed the beautiful building in 1894. From then until now, it has firmly cemented its place as a Wakefield stalwart, with a varied programme of drama, comedy, music and more. The theatre tagline speaks for itself – it really is “A Great Night Out”!

Although they’re not found on Westgate proper, a visit to Venue 23 on Smyth Street is a must for a night out in the area. This venue is “keeping live entertainment alive in Wakefield” and has a huge gig list for top tribute acts throughout the year.  

Likewise The Art House on Drury Lane is just a short detour (it’s round the corner from The Black Horse), and is well worth a visit. The Art House is a place for artists and makers to do their thing, and for the public to come and see it (and sometimes take part, too), through a year-round programme of events and exhibitions.

History & conservation

But Westgate’s current life as Wakefield’s nighttime hub is only half the story. The street dates back hundreds of years and has seen many changes throughout its history. Indeed, many of the modern bars and restaurants sit in some of the city’s oldest buildings. That legacy is being preserved by Wakefield Council in partnership with Historic England, in the form of the High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme. The £3.8m scheme will see at least 20 buildings restored for residential and business use, ensuring that Westgate’s Georgian and Victorian buildings are protected, and preserving the fascinating medieval street patterns and yards. 

There will also be a programme of cultural community activities on offer, so that residents can find out all about Westgate’s unique history. 

Art on Westgate

The Heritage Action Zone isn’t just about conservation: it’s also about creating something new. Artist Ekaterina Sheath has taken inspiration from the area’s rich industrial heritage, architects and from stories collected from local people and businesses to create a temporary outdoor trail of illustration, with the stunning artworks encouraging passers-by to re-imagine Westgate’s heritage.

Installed on buildings and lampposts,  the project prompts visitors to look up and explore the whole Westgate area —drawing their attention to the historic architecture.

The artworks can be found on listed buildings including Unity Hall, Theatre Royal Wakefield and The Lodge at the Orangery. They illustrate unique stories relating to the building, such as a portrait of writer George Gissing, a scene depicting the laying of the foundation stone at Unity Hall and a collection of vibrant characters that have featured on the Theatre’s stage over the years. Sheath cleverly marries Westgate’s past with its present by intertwining contemporary characters and collected stories from residents and workers in Wakefield, to show the layers of the Westgate’s unique history and people.

Take a look at some of these beautiful new artworks below – and then get out there and see them for yourself!

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