Just over the bridge from the train station lies Micklegate. A street which over the years has transformed from what was one of York’s most popular stag and hen do hotspots, to what it is now known as the ‘kitchen of York’. Around 2016, an influx of independent businesses joined the street and created what locals now call the resurgence of Micklegate. Whether it was down the outer-city low rents, or whether prospective business owners recognised this street as an up and coming culinary sweet spot, remains a mystery. Either way, Micklegate’s resurgence has most certainly not come to an end, and the possibilities for the street are ever-promising, thanks to a handful of independent owners that are determined to see both their business, and an underestimated area of York thrive.
FOOD & DRINK
Just before you pass under the Micklegate Bar, take a look to your left and you’ll find an incredibly modest entrance to what many believe is the best Italian restaurant in York. The small green door that’s easy to miss leads you down a set of stairs into Delrio’s Italian Restaurant, an underground cavern of true Italian décor, atmosphere, and, of course, food.
Sardinian owner, Giovanni Delrio, opened his eponymous Italian restaurant in 1992, and over the years himself and his restaurant have built up an enviable reputation for serving up an inexpensive menu of authentic Italian cuisine made from ingredients sourced both locally and from Italy. Giovanni learnt the ropes of Italian cuisine at one of Italy’s top catering colleges, he worked in restaurants and hotels in Tuscany before moving to York for his college placement in 1978. Now, after nearly 30 years of business in York, Giovanni and his team have well and truly established Delrio’s Italian restaurant as a popular eatery on the York map.
After passing under the Micklegate Bar, you’d find it hard to miss Micklegate’s newcomer, the Micklegate Social café, bar and gig venue. A bright and airy space filled with light from wall to ceiling windows which makes for a relaxed and cheery atmosphere. Their menu of classic dishes for breakfast, brunch and late lunch compliments the feel of the café, providing something for everyone; with a range of breakfast and brunch classics such as a shakshuka, avocado and poached eggs, maple pancakes, and of course a trusty full English. And for when you’re stopping by for a pint later on, you will be warmly welcomed by the heavenly smell of freshly made, stone baked pizza.
Micklegate Social was established in 2018 by brother and sister team, Mike and Sarah Lakin, five years after opening the “little brother” to Micklegate Social, the Fossgate Social. Although relatively new to the hospitality scene, the pair claim it was always a dream of theirs to start a business of their own, and were intent on creating spaces that serve great quality produce as well as a cool and sophisticated atmosphere.
In the centre of Micklegate stands café and restaurant, Partisan. This seamless combination of café, restaurant, and antique shop greets you with a turquoise-tiled shop-front with fresh baked artisanal bread, cakes, fresh flowers and antique pieces on display in the window, a kryptonite for the inquisitive, and the hungry. Partisan was established in 2016 by owners Florencia Clifford and her husband Hugo Hildyard. After moving from Argentina to York, Florencia believed the hospitality scene in the UK was a little flat, so the pair opened Partisan with the intention of creating an emphasis on an eclectic menu of food that “fills the soul”.
It’s with thanks to Florencia’s career history in cooking, and particularly Zen cooking, that she is able to curate ever-changing menus of dishes made to nourish. Both daytime and evening menus at partisan place emphasis on creating seasonal, nourishing dishes. One of the daytime menu’s house favourites is Persian eggs, a combination of slow scrambled eggs, with spinach, soft onions, dates, and spices, and natural yoghurt with almond dukkha. Opening as an evening restaurant on Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays, boasting an ambitious menu of globally inspired dishes, such as Parisian gnocchi with rainbow chard, miso roasted tomatoes, and pistachios.
Established in 2016, Skosh has already gained a bit of a cult following in York. Known for its distinctive small plates, which the name ‘Skosh’ refers to (meaning “a small amount” in Japanese), as well as its distinguished fusion of English and Asian flavour combinations. The concept of numerous smaller dishes rather than one larger portion is very common in places such as India, and Chef Patron Neil Bentinck chose this serving style as a nod to his late father’s Indian heritage.
Neil opened the casual fine dining restaurant in 2016; after vast career history working for Michelin-starred restaurants, Neil became self-employed, focusing solely on creating Skosh. Neils choice of Micklegate for the location of Skosh was mainly down to it being cheaper to rent, the decision was made easier with Micklegate’s increasing popularity; where exploratory cooking may have struggled in the past, Micklegate has seen Skosh go from strength to strength.
The Rattle Owl
The resurge of Micklegate began in 2016, as prospecting café and restaurant owners chose the spot to establish their businesses, predicting that the street would soon take off and become the emerging hotspot for food that it is now. One restaurant which many believe to have worked as one of the catalysts for Micklegate’s resurgence is The Rattle Owl. After two years were spent restoring the 17th century grade II listed building, owner Clarrie established the casual-dining restaurant in 2015.
Having a love for fine and casual dining herself, Clarrie wanted to bring a restaurant to York similar to those she loved to visit herself. The interior, décor, and overall ambience of The Rattle Owl shows evidence of a well thought out effort to create the prefect blend of both elements in casual fine dining, and it certainly does not miss the mark. Together with Head Chef Tom Heywood, the pair have curated a menu of contemporary classics, featuring dishes such as cod served with roasted cauliflower puree, capers, and mussel sauce.
SHOPPING & LIFESTYLE
Ken Spelman Books
One of Micklegate’s old timers, and established long before any resurgence, Ken Spelman Books has lived on Micklegate since 1948. Originally run and owned by Ken himself, several years after the business was established, it was then passed onto Peter Miller, a York University student who was previously one of the shops most regular customers. It was originally intended to be a temporary summer job for Peter, but he was soon given an extraordinary opportunity by Ken, who was hoping to soon retire; at the age of just 21, Peter was offered a partnership in the business.
And in a curious way, the story has since repeated itself, and Peter offered partnership to yet another York University student, Tony Fothergill, who now owns the business with his wife Nicki. Ken Spelman Bookshop has grown enormously over the years, and now offers over two floors worth of books specialising in painting, drawing, and landscape gardening. Two additional rooms with antiquarian volumes and more of the speciality subjects can be visited on request.
Housed at the bottom of the Micklegate hill, Fancy Dance dancewear shop is yet another of one this street’s independents which has gained a very large and devoted following over the years for its highly skilled fitting team, all-encompassing range of products, and willingness to go above and beyond to provide customers with the products they’re after. Similarly to the shop itself, owner Jayne Mason has also earned a well-deserved, favourable reputation for overcoming personal barriers to pursue her passion of the shop, and in 2007 was named one of the country’s top ten business heroes in The Barclays Trading Places Awards.
With well-deserved success, Fancy Dance has gone on to outgrow the original shop three times, selling everything you could possibly need to practise the art of dance, including Ballet Shoes, Pointe Shoes, Jazz Shoes, Leotards, Dance Separates, Jazz Pants, and cat-suits, just to name a few.