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Yorkshire Life Luncheon - The Refectory Kitchen & Terrace, Royal York Hotel

PUBLISHED: 00:00 31 March 2016

Braised Waterford Farm beef cheek, horseradish creamed potato, caramelised onions, black cabbage and red wine jus

Braised Waterford Farm beef cheek, horseradish creamed potato, caramelised onions, black cabbage and red wine jus

not Archant

Guests join us for lunch in the splendid surroundings of the newly-restored Royal York Hotel. Words by Jo Haywood. Photographs by Andy Bulmer

Head chef Nick Evans plates up the starter courseHead chef Nick Evans plates up the starter course

The grand dame of York just got a multi-million pound facelift and, even though it’s frowned upon to talk of such things publicly, she’s looking mighty fine. We are, of course, referring to the landmark Royal York Hotel which, after a substantial investment of time, effort and money, has a new look created by award-winning interior architects Goddard Littlefair.

The grand yet welcoming 138-year-old hotel, which enjoys a key location next to the city’s bustling railway hub, has been restored to its original splendour (and more) with a newfound verve and sense of style that cleverly underlines its innate Victorian elegance while ramping up its contemporary credentials.

‘It’s taken us a long, hard year but we’ve reinvigorated an important part of York’s heritage and have created what I believe is an intuitive, warm, generous hotel for both visitors and residents,’ said manager Richard Mansell.

‘Yes, this building is a York icon, but we’re not in the least bit pompous. Our ultimate aim is to make people feel relaxed and at home.’

The Royal York now boasts 159 beautifully-appointed bedrooms and suites as well as dramatic public spaces and sweeping views from the new Garden Room to York Minster. This room in particular is a real stroke of interior design genius, opening up a previously unheralded view and making what could in lesser hands be a somewhat cavernous space into an uber-comfy meeting place.

The hotel, part of the PH (Principal Hayley) collection of landmark city centre hotels, is also now home to what is fast becoming something of a destination restaurant, The Refectory Kitchen & Terrace which, along with the new Chapter House bar, is drawing astute diners from across the city, the county and – if you can imagine such a thing – beyond Yorkshire.

The Refectory specialises in fresh, seasonal Yorkshire produce, served with silver service professionalism and a smile (great service really doesn’t have to be a sombre affair) in a dramatic new conservatory setting, while the Chapter House bar offers a well-considered list including craft ales and cocktails as well as a moreish menu of delicious bar bites.

Both have been developed in partnership with London restaurateur Des McDonald, whose impressive CV includes The Ivy, Scott’s, Dean Street Townhouse, Holborn Dining Room and Vintage Salt.

The Refectory Kitchen and TerraceThe Refectory Kitchen and Terrace

Working with executive chef Nick Evans, formerly of Middlethorpe Hall in York, he’s created menus that burst with seasonal, local flavour and ingredients destined to make even the most jaded diners go a little weak at the knees such as Yorkshire Moor smoked wood pigeon, Waterford Farm rib eye and Whitby slip soles.

For our guests, Nick and his talented kitchen team delivered a beautifully balanced menu that pushed all the right flavour buttons in the right order.

It began with a miniature cup of creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup with a flavour-deepening drop or two of truffle oil.

Next a sensationally fresh East Coast grilled mackerel fillet had everyone hooked from the first bite. The moist flavoursome flesh didn’t let the side down but it was actually the delightfully piquant deconstructed piccalilli salad accompaniment that made this good dish into a great one.

The table is setThe table is set

Braised Waterford Farm beef cheek – a deeply satisfying treat – was next on the menu, accompanied by horseradish creamed potatoes and black cabbage.

And last, but certainly not least if the happy sighs emanating from every table were anything to go by, came a Yorkshire rhubarb and blood orange posset that was rich enough to make you feel wonderfully spoilt but light enough to enjoy down to the last delicious spoonful (including a sneaky one from your neighbour’s dish if they were daft enough to take their eyes off theirs for a moment).

‘With the best will in the world, the Royal York was not known for its food in the past,’ said Richard. ‘Now, destination dining is very much on our agenda.

‘We try to focus on fresh, seasonal produce available within a 50-mile radius of the hotel. You might think that makes life difficult for us, but this is Yorkshire so the very finest produce in the country is well within our grasp.’

For more information, visit hotelroyalyork.co.uk, call 01904 653681 or pop in to The Royal York Hotel, Station Road, York, YO24 1AA.

Menu

Canapes: breaded Whitby scampi; caramelised red onion and Ribblesdale goats’ cheese tart; Doreen’s black pudding sausage rolls

Jerusalem artichoke soup, horn of plenty, truffle oil, sourdough and Longley Farm butter

Grilled East Coast-landed mackerel fillet, warm piccalilli salad and sweet mustard dressing

Braised Waterford Farm beef cheek, horseradish creamed potato, caramelised onions, black cabbage and red wine jus

Yorkshire rhubarb and blood orange posset

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