In the past decade, the nation’s appetite for and access to exotic foods and far flung flavours has increased unrecognisably. No longer is the UK restricted to its own cuisine, as the country can now explore the tastes of every continent without having to leave their home city. Indeed, in York alone there are many European, American, Asian and African delights to be enjoyed throughout. So, where does that leave traditional British fare? Well, as it turns out, in a great place.
Far from replacing local grub, the increase in diversity and quality has caused old favourites to rise up. Those much-loved traditions remain celebrated and have been elevated. From hearty pies and homely fish and chips to refined roasts and stunning steaks, these are dishes to rival any other, and thankfully there are several York eateries cooking up traditions beautifully. Here are five of our favourites…
What better place to begin than in a quintessentially English building on a historic York street championing local produce in traditional dishes with a modern touch? The Rattle Owl opened 4 years ago in a restored grade II listed space and quickly gained a deserved reputation for their refined comfort, in both food and atmosphere.
The interior is at once elegant and relaxing. The classic design complements the grand setting and reassures that there’ll be no shit served here; the understated practicality suggests there’ll be no bullshit on offer either. The menu of traditional Yorkshire ingredients displayed at their seasonal best confirms it. There’s Yorkshire Blue cheese, Yorkshire lamb, and of course Yorkshire puddings, in dishes that are homely in a way that you couldn’t do at home.
Similar in ethos yet distinctive in personality, The Whippet Inn is one York place to rival The Rattle Owl for the best Sunday dinner in the city. Both are equally delicious for an evening out too; The Whippet Inn is set in a glorious Victorian pub where real ales make for the perfect accompaniment alongside the fine food. Of which, the steaks sizzle, whether ripping into the Ripon rump or carving out the succulent cauliflower.
And yet, there is a different independent restaurant that hunkers down as ‘York’s Steak House’. Having opened in 2013, Corner Grill House was at the forefront of a movement that now surrounds it on Walmgate. This place is cool and cosy, stylish and satisfying. The locally sourced seasonal produce is grilled up good and tastes just that. The menu is beauty in tradition, everything goes with what it should, and if you’re lucky you might even get a chicken kiev. All cooked with a realisation that this, done just right, is what we all want to eat.
All of the above are great examples of traditional dining experiences that went unknowingly out of fashion and have come back stronger than ever. That too could be said of the good old bistro. An establishment which should always bring up visions of dreamy quality but somehow became vaguely naff or forgotten about. Well, the bistro is back, and in York it never really went away.
Bistro Guy has been serving superb food since 2011 in a Gillygate space that surprises with a giant back garden perfect for summer seating and eating. Like any good traditional bistro, its food is simple and effective; indulge in morning breakfasts and coffees, daytime or evening wines, and weekend pizza and beer nights. Its own tagline sums itself up: better food, better mood: comfort, flavour, quality.
So, that’s English breakfasts, Sunday lunches and steak dinners taken care of. Plus, pizza, ale and wine. All that’s missing is the ultimate traditional British delicacy: fish and chips. Well, seeing as we’re in Yorkshire, and nearby the fabulous fishing east coast, there’s an abundance that could be included here. As it is, we’ve gone for the bloody lovely Thompson’s Fish Restaurant.
Located on the A64, Thompson’s attracts all-comers, from passers by to the many people heading to the enjoyment intentionally. Their menu is an old-school delight: prawn cocktail, haddock and chips, cod and chips, senior citizens lunchtime offers, fish pie, peas, pate, scampi, fishcake…you know the rest. I’m off to order it now.