Let’s celebrate fabulous food, pop a cork and talk York! Elaine Lemm serves up a few suggestions of what’s cooking in the city.
As recently as six years ago, someone asking for an amazing restaurant recommendation in York could have proved a difficult question to answer. Aside from the pubs and cafes, just a few good independents were keeping the city’s culinary credentials and reputation alive. Thankfully, most of those are still operating, but they often had a bumpy ride alongside the bigger businesses, restaurant chains and fast food outlets that once dominated the city centre.
York is steeped in over a millennia of history and heritage, so it is no wonder the beautiful city is a significant tourist attraction for a staggering number of visitors worldwide. Around seven million people flock to York each year to enjoy all it has to offer. One wonders, for the most part, what impression of Yorkshire food they took away with them in the past though? Today numbers are still growing and York is now considered one of the major food destinations in the UK. So, what is different now?
Perhaps the game-changing moment for York was when, in 2013 Andrew Pern, chef-owner of the renowned The Star Inn, Harome opened his second eatery in York with business partner Justin Brosenitz. The Star Inn the City, a 130-seat restaurant at the old Engine House close to Lendal Bridge was the opening of the year with 5,000 bookings from when the doors opened in October through to Christmas.
A testament that the city was hungry for a change. “When we started The Star Inn the City everyone said we were at the wrong end of town and no one went out for lunch never mind breakfast,” Pern said of his high quality, relaxed all-day eating concept. “As with the Star Inn at Harome, we have always thought more national and international with our outlook, while using our famous Yorkshire hospitality and its finest ingredients to do the rest.”
Six years on The Star Inn the City is still busy and a destination in York for delicious food, a great bar and lashings of that excellent Yorkshire hospitality. From then on, the diversity and quality of the food scene in York have continued to change and grow. The list of great places to eat keeps increasing, with an abundance of talented chefs, small businesses, new concepts and tons of innovation hitting the city.
The spotlight certainly shone when in September 2019, three independent York restaurants, Skosh, Le Cochon Aveugle and Roots made it into the top 100 UK restaurants in the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards. Outside of London, Yorkshire is the area with the most listed in the awards with eight of those hundred.
After opening his inaugural restaurant Skosh on Micklegate in 2016, Neil Bentinck and his team garnered national acclaim at an unprecedented pace. AA rosettes, Michelin Bib Gourmands, column-inches in both national and local magazines and newspapers with a “One to Watch” chef award from Olive magazine and Restaurant of the Year at the White Rose Awards 2018.
Neil modestly explains why he chose to open Skosh in York. “York is home and was the only place where I wanted to open a restaurant. Plus, I always wanted a city centre venue too, to provide that buzzing, inner-city vibe,” says Neil. “York is a small place and I love it, I really do, and I’m very proud to be putting York on the culinary map these days, and we are now known nationally as a top restaurant – something I never imagined in the early days.” Plans are to keep doing what he does so well and the only thing he could consider is a larger space. “More space would be great, but there’s nothing in the pipeline yet, somewhere bigger would be fantastic of course, as I’d be able to create a better experience for my customers and staff… so hopefully soon!”
Josh Overington from the acclaimed Le Cochon Aveugle, is one of the smallest restaurants in the city but vast on stunning food, tells of his York journey. “The York food scene has become a different beast over the last five years since we first opened. It is now an established food destination city in its own right, led by independent restaurants and a network of young, talented chefs driving the food scene forward. I chose York for my restaurants as I always thought there would be a market for an ambitious restaurant doing things their own way and we’ve had phenomenal support from both local diners and guests from further afield. York is now the city to visit outside London, and it is awesome to be a part of the movement.”
The latest opening of these three talents is Roots in late 2018. Roots is the second restaurant of the Michelin-starred Black Swan at Oldstead. Chef Tommy Banks takes care of the food, his big brother James, the drinks. Following their huge success, we asked James why York? “We had been thinking about creating a second restaurant that could showcase our Oldstead produce. There seems to be a really exciting vibrant food scene in York right now with more genuinely interesting restaurants than ever. It is a pleasure for Roots to be a part of it!”
York’s Star was further on the ascendancy when the city scooped two Golds in Yorkshire’s acclaimed 2019 White Rose Awards both, incidentally, for hotels. Hotels have always been a part of the food scene in the city and Grays Court Hotel in its stunning location near York Minster is no exception. They received the Best Small Hotel award with the 2 AA rosette restaurant receiving rave views from the judges for its food. The Large Hotel Award went to The Grand Hotel, impressive for its hospitality and also playing a significant part in promoting great food in York with two destination restaurants and home to The Cookery School, which focuses on a selection of International cuisines and speciality classes.
But it is not just these award-winning eateries making York what it is today; they are only part of the story. For variety and impressive standards, York now takes some beating. From the vibrant and eclectic mix of the street food; the tiniest of cafés, to the renowned Bettys Tea Rooms; the illustrious The Ivy choosing York to make its first move outside of London and even the famous York Food Festival showcasing all that the city has to offer in food and drink in an exciting 10-day event. There’s ‘small plates’ dining through to impressive tasting menus stacked with innovation and creativity from across the globe. And with rafts of pubs from the quirky and haunted to the trendiest of bars serving good food, it is now safe to say, York has it all, and for that, we have to thank the independent operators who took a risk with York; one which thankfully seems to have paid off.
York is one of the most easily accessible cities in the UK and is ideally positioned in the heart of the country with direct rail links bringing you from London, Edinburgh, and Manchester in around two hours. You can get to York on half hourly high-speed trains from London.
THIS ARTICLE WAS TAKEN FROM THIS IS Y 2020 – YOU CAN VIEW THE FULL MAGAZINE HERE.