Food review - Rattle Owl, York
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 March 2020
Dining time at York’s Rattle Owl, a restaurant bursting with personality
Micklegate in York is a gem of a place when it comes to good food.
Only just off the beaten track, the city centre street gives the knowing and hungry foodie reason to pause and ponder almost every step of the way. And certainly a reason to return.
You have the likes of Partisan with their perfect brunches, Skosh, with inventive Scandi-inspired small plates and in between - literally and menu-wise - Rattle Owl.
Add to the mix some browse-perfect bookshops and coffee-and-vinyl stop-offs and you can easily while away an afternoon here, with a good lunch involved.
We settled in to Rattle Owl on a Saturday afternoon and got comfy straightaway. The building is packed with a character that's a cool mix of contemporary, historic and easy-going.
Once upon a time (that I can remember), it was a much-loved bookshop with a café at the back.
Now, under the influence of its owner Clarrie O'Callaghan, today the reading material is a neat menu and a witty wine list. What, as they say, is not to love?
Clarrie opened the Rattle Owl in 2015. As a building it is a warren and one that she inhabited on upper floors having returned to York after working as a lawyer in London.
She inherited Roman ruins in the cellar and heading upwards, more characterful and creaky floors with rooms boasting original panelling, cornices and gorgeous nooks and crannies.
Since last year Clarrie has concentrated on creating private dining spaces in the rooms - each floor has its own 'break out' area so they are becoming popular dining destinations in their own right, for family groups, friends and even a new and more relaxed style of business lunch.
There's a sense of style and a feel of the era of the 'salon' with the separate areas and rooms with a mix of furniture that sharply contrasts with the period of the property. Lounge on a bold orange wraparound sofa and dine at modern pale wood tables, letting the features of the historic surroundings sing for themselves.
Sunday lunches in the private dining rooms make perfect sense with space to snooze post-feast or for the little ones to make a break with a game (or, eek, device), while the grown ups chat on over their wine.
One of the dining spaces has its own cubby of a cocktail bar too, perfect for the pop of a champagne cork.
The weekday lunch menu at £22 for two courses or £28 for three, including a glass of house wine is devastatingly good value. The menu is neat but well-formed and includes imaginative vegetarian options.
At the helm in the kitchen young chef Tom Heywood does clever things with ingredients that are definitely seasonal but also take Rattle Owl's approach to the provenance of food being as local as it can be.
Suppliers include veg from the local Food Circle co-operative and meat and poultry from Grassfruits farm near York.
For our starters I was impressed by the beetroot cured salmon - which I've had here before. Three thick slabs rather than slithers of salmon with their pretty pink hint of beetroot as well as a surprising pop of horseradish ice cream and a transparent cube of gin jelly.
A velvety white onion veloute was poured around an island of a Doddington cheese and walnut tart, really balanced combination.
My main course of black bream was a well-judged portion, nicely cooked with still a hint of translucence. It was matched by roasted salsify, new to me but sweet and delicious, and a fennel jam that I really didn't want to finish. Adding an edge was a taste of tapenade. My dining chum went for rump of mutton, served pink, with perky fresh greens.
As for the side of hassleback potatoes smothered in salsa verde, there are no words. In a good way - just a dream of a thing to do to a humble spud.
The wine menu has much to offer in terms of a weekly wine special selection and suggestions for meal pairings. A Judith Beck Zweigelt biodynamic wine was a perfect recommendation with the bream. The specials also featured a skin contact orange wine. Delicious desserts included a tasty combination of peanut butter parfait with caramelised banana and banana ice cream and a small plate of local cheeses.