“It's the only place you can come for tapas and leave with a fur coat!”
With that throwaway line, made well after our interview as such was over, owner Sam Smith perfectly summed up the distinctive appeal of a rather hidden – but well worth finding – Pontefract town centre gem.
The Pineapple Inn Vintage Refreshment Room occupies the first floor of the former Pineapple Inn, on Gillygate, though in more recent times the ground floor premises, now a games store, were home to the fondly-remembered Rocola Records shop.
Sam, who (much to the amusement of everyone she tells) once ran pubs for the brewery with which she shares her name, has been serving up tea, toast and tiffin, as well as the aforementioned tapas, there since 2013.
However, more than the food it's the setting which makes the Pineapple what it is. From the display of vintage household effects half-way up the staircase to the 'scrap wall' covered with cuttings and clippings, the hand-made bunting to the 1970s telephone, the tearoom is a definition of the word 'quirky' writ large in china, formica and plastic.
There's also a rail of vintage clothing and a selection of shoes for sale in one corner (hence Sam's 'fur coat' reference), while works by local artists and jewellery makers were also on display and available to buy at the time of our visit.
Sam is a big fan of rock 'n' roll and rockabilly with an enduring fascination for all things 40s and 50s, whose sense of style is almost as distinctive as that of the place where you'll find her behind the counter from Wednesdays through to Saturdays.
“I'd run pubs for ten years and I wanted a change, to work for myself,” she said. “I'm from Pontefract originally, although I'm settled in Huddersfield, but when I came back to visit my family, it struck me there was nowhere I wanted to go for a drink or for something to eat, so I decided to have a go at filling the gap.
“We came up with all sorts of ideas of what to do, before I hit upon the vintage tearoom plan.”
In truth, that's hardly a unique idea these days – but what sets the Pineapple apart is the eclectic way in which Sam has fitted it out and the atmosphere she's created.
“I just love all thing vintage, anything olde-worlde,” she explained. “I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents and great-grandparents and I find things from their time very homely and nostalgic – and maybe slightly kitsch as well, but in a good way. I don't like plain white ware!” Whatever her likes and dislikes, she had few problems kitting out what had previously been a tanning salon, buying some items and bringing others from home. Not that the process is by any means complete, whether she intends it or not…
“Now people come in and bring us things: teapots, cups, little bits and pieces,” said Sam. “Sometimes someone will be sitting having a cuppa and they'll suddenly say 'Ooh, my mum used to have one of these!' It's always a conversation starter.”
Coffee and cake, afternoon teas (top value at £10 or two for £15), breakfasts, soups and sandwiches are, of course, staples of the menu through the day, then on Thursdays and Fridays from 5pm it's tapas time.
As much as possible is home made and locally sourced, with members of Sam's family chipping in to help. “My gran and mum bake, my sister helps out and Scott from the adjoining hair salon lends a hand in the kitchen here. So it's home-made cakes and pies, we like to make interesting salads and quiches, then on evenings we do themed food nights.”
Furthermore, reflecting Sam's past occupation, her current 'other' part-time job with Empire Brewery in Slaithwaite and, of course, the history of the building, the Pineapple is also licensed. A selection of bottled beers is always on the shelves (Castleford's Revolutions Brewery is well represented), while she often brings in a cask and hand pump to dispense Empire ales for special occasions or party bookings.
The reference to Scott from the hair salon points to another unique aspect of the Pineapple Inn, because a similarly-styled hairdressers is also part of the business, run by Scott and his partner Chris (and if you were wondering, ladies – yes, they will do you a beehive or a victory roll as well as more 21st century styles!). The salon space is
also brought into use as extra accommodation for private events, which include vintage tea parties, children's parties and vintage pamper parties.
The two sides of the business can work
together to provide some real fun events, too, with one particular occasion sticking in Sam's mind. “We had a 'hen do' where 13 girls came, all in 40s and 50s dresses, went to the salon and had their hair done in victory rolls, had afternoon tea, then we put a band on and they danced into the night.” Not sure you could do that at Betty's Cafe!
One aspect of business at the Pineapple which gives Sam particular pleasure is the wide age range of her customers. “It's great that we get
people from all generations and walks of life,” she said. “We do a 1940s afternoon on Wednesdays, that's lunch, a pudding and a cuppa with music from that time, and we'll have older customers coming in and singing along, then we'll get younger ones for the tapas nights.
“I love it. I think a place should have a good mix of people and characters and we've certainly got that here.
“It was hard work – and a bit frightening – starting my own business, but now I sometimes stand back, watching people enjoying themselves, and I think 'this is it!'. If I can project some of the enjoyment I get from doing this on to other people, then everyone's happy.”
And looking at the smile on Sam Smith's face as she said those words, it's clear to see that's just what's happening at the Pineapple.
The Pineapple Inn Vintage Refreshment Room, 12a Gillygate, Pontefract, is open 9.30am to 4.30pm on Wednesdays, 10am to 8pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and 9.30am to 6pm on Saturdays.
It is also available at other times for one-off events and private functions. Go to www.pineappleinn.co.uk or call 07983 518968. For the hair salon, call 01977 288356.