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ACE Courtyard Bistro (Nelson)

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Address: ACE Centre, Cross St, Nelson, BB9 7NN / Tel: 01282 661080

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      14.02.2010 17:04
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      Tea for two and two for tea - oh and coffee, cakes, hotpot and more!

      If you've ever ventured into Nelson town centre, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this an unlikely location in which to find fantastic, well priced food served in a contemporary and relaxed setting. But there is a little gem nestled in the greasy café crown of Nelson town centre known as The Courtyard Bistro which can be found inside the new ACE Centre on Cross Street.

      Step into The Courtyard and you'll instantly forget you're in the run down mill town of Nelson. It's a fresh, contemporary space which oozes sophistication without feeling stuffy. From the curvy sofas to the comfortable bistro tables and outside eating area in summer, The Courtyard is simply a great place to eat great food, preferably in great company.

      The menu has something for everyone and includes Halal, vegetarian and gluten free options as well as a selection of dishes especially for children. There's also the addition of daily specials available to further whet your appetite. The soup of the day is a firm favourite of mine - hearty homemade soups and broths served with freshly baked crusty rolls for a little more than £3. But if you're looking for something more substantial, you won't be disappointed. There's the typical café fare of paninis, sandwiches and baked potatoes on offer alongside more filling dishes such as chef's homemade Lancashire hotpot and the attention grabbing Cajun chicken sizzler. And the devilishly divine Chicken Caesar and tuna Nicoise salads both deserve a special mention, although I must confess to adding a side order of chips when I stray onto the healthy path. For those with a sweet tooth, there is a large display of the most scrumptious homemade cakes on offer which are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of freshly ground coffee.

      The staff are particularly friendly and polite and manage to add to the homely atmosphere without being too intrusive. Orders are taken at the bar but from then on, you can sit back and enjoy being waited on. The service is quick enough to make this an ideal venue for a lunch break from work but leisurely enough to assure you that all the food is freshly prepared and cooked and not simply nuked in the microwave. Lunchtimes can be exceedingly busy but advance reservations and orders are an option. It just goes to show what a popular venue The Courtyard has become in the few months since it opened and the relaxed atmosphere isn't lost despite the hive of lunchtime diners.

      The availability of Wifi makes it a popular afternoon spot too for business types in suits and arty types like me who like to while away the hours writing novels in the hope that one day they will be published. There's also the option of afternoon tea (or coffee if you prefer) served with sandwiches and home made scones. There is also a monthly 'Cinema Paradiso' offer available where, for a mere £6 you can enjoy an afternoon tea in The Courtyard and also entrance to a classic film at the ACE Centre cinema. This month's film is Amadeus, a personal favourite of mine, so I'm attempting to tweak my rota at work to enable me to go.

      In the evenings, The Courtyard is open when there are show nights at The ACE Centre and serves as the main bar for theatre shows, gigs and comedy nights. It also played host to Pies, Peas and Poetry recently, an evening of, you guessed it, pies, peas and poetry as recited by local actors. The £5 ticket price included a more than generous serving of homemade pie, mushy peas and pickled beetroot, the perfect accompaniment to the evening. I'd definitely recommend keeping an eye out for similar events in future.

      So if you live in the vicinity already, or perhaps you find yourself passing through Pendle, The Courtyard Bistro is well worth a look in. There's something to suit every taste and budget and it really is a tranquil haven hidden amidst the bustle of Nelson.

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