There was once a time when I wouldn’t be seen dead at the York. In those dark days the York was a Scream pub. However, most probably due to the lack of interest even from the usual Scream pub crowd, the York was recently (about a year ago?) taken over by the lovely people behind The Forum, The Old House and The Common Room. I remember this being exciting news at the time, but because by then I had moved to the other side of town, I never actually made it to the new and improved York. I find it quite ironic how now, as a tourist and visitor to Sheffield, I discover new exciting places instead of just revisiting the old haunts, but that’s a different story altogether.
So, when I was staying with Kim the other weekend I demanded that we eat lunch at the York, following all the hype I got from Kim about her previous visit. Then we dithered – we knew this lunch would probably cost us a pretty penny, and at this point I declared that if we ate there I’d be racked with guilt thinking about our wallets. In the end we did end up at the York – having seen the menu we simply could not resist.
And boy has the place changed! Gone are the purple walls, sticky tables and non-existent decor. The restaurant seems much more spacious with the open plan layout. It is so refreshing to see a dingy pub turn into an inviting, warm, traditional and family friendly environment – all too often things go the other way around! With their own smokehouse on site and links to local food producers, the York is certainly a new benchmark for Sheffield eateries – gastro pubs especially, seeing as we used to have to venture out to the pubs in Peak District to eat good, gourmet pub food.
The decision was made to go all out, not just get sandwiches, and I offered to buy starter. Having seen the massive triple decker sandwiches and thick cut chips that the people around us were munching on I think it’s safe to say that sandwiches would have left us just as stuffed. I fancied a cheese platter to start us off, so that’s what we did.
The artisan cheeses arrived on a lovely thick wooden board, accompanied with some herby butter and homemade date and walnut spelt bread and a selection of crackers, celery and grapes. The cheeses come from a chap called Michael Lee, Purveyor Of Fine Cheese (what a title to aspire to). We had the pleasure to try some home smoked goats cheese, Websters Blue Stilton, strong but not overpowering Stilton made by the smallest stilton maker in the world, Yorkshire Tasty Cheddar (which was just that) and Rustica Brie, cheese of the month and very creamy. Nothing beats a slab of cheese, butter and homemade bread.
I then chose beef cheek hot pot served with green beans and caramelised shallots, because I thought that would be the least carb heavy option amongst all those chips and mash. I was very pleased with my choice when my food arrived – not only because of its beautiful presentation. The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender, a sign that it has had a few hours of cooking behind it. The shallots and beans tasted absolutely divine, affirming a point made in my review of the Malmaison about bringing out the flavour of the vegetable with one simple but strong flavour. Here the marriage of butter, beans and these heavenly sweet shallots really pushed all of my buttons.
Kim opted for a veggie spicy bean burger, an unorthodox choice seeing as she isn’t a vegetarian. Sometimes even carnivores don’t feel like eating meat and it’s good to see that restaurant really do offer some great meat free alternatives. I don’t normally go for the vegetarian option, but I definitely like the sound of Websters Blue Cheese and toasted hazelnut croquets with wilted spinach, pear puree and a port and shallot reduction…
Back to the burger. Beautifully presented, served on a homemade poppy seed bun with coleslaw, chipotle ketchup and proper thick cut chips, what’s not to like… Kim said in the end it was maybe the lack of meat, but I could find no fault with this burger, and I am normally wary of bean patties or nut roasts. As someone who has home made ketchup production under her belt I can say the ketchup was fantastic, smokey and not too spicy.
We had to say no to the pudding menu as we had to go home to do some baking of our own. I hate to say no to the pudding menu, it is usually worth a peek, but we suspected that we would struggle to resist. I finished off my lunch with a very nice, not too sweet at all mocha.
So to summarise, I wholeheartedly recommend eating at the York on a weekend when you can happily spend a few hours at the pub, enjoying the lazy atmosphere and savouring your food and a pint of ale before, during and after. I also have to disagree with the rumour that the York is expensive – it is no Weatherspoons, but most of the traditional pub classics come under the £10 mark, burgers for £8 and all but one of the lavish looking mains under £13. Looking at those beautiful plates you can’t disagree that you do get your every penny’s worth at the York. There is a whole section of the menu aimed at little uns, encouraging a wide range of customers through the door. The York are certainly doing something right.
*Apologies for the rubbish photography this time, taken on a camera phone.