York – A slice of English history

York Minster, one of the city’s most impressive landmarks

It has been an awfully long time since I last blogged. And I haven’t even got round to completing my South American stories yet (I’ll get on that very soon).

This has mainly been due to the upheaval in our lives lately. Tackling a new job, whilst doing up a new flat and wedding planning at the same time is no mean feat.

But this weekend we took some time out to head back up to our beloved north as a surprise weekend outing for my birthday. And we were ready to sample the delights that Yorkshire had to offer, all of them.

Medieval banqueting

I think one of the main things that attracted us to this city was the history. There’s over 2000 years of it here and we enjoyed finding out about the lavish dining habits of the medieval gentry. From eating roasted peacock (over which they’d then replace the uncooked skin complete with feathers!!) to refusing vegetables because they were for paupers; there were plenty of interesting facts to learn.

York’s Norman walls, the best way to explore the city

History aside, York is also a place that takes its food seriously, from British classics to the more exotic. One of the cuisines best represented in York, we noted was Italian and we’d heard excellent things about a small, unimpressive looking place with a big name. 

Il paradiso del cibo (‘food heaven’ in Italian)  definitely lived up to its name. The minute you step in the door it’s an assault on the senses from the strong smells of frying garlic to the TV blaring out Italian football, to the raucous staff; this is not a quiet romantic dinner location. But you can’t help but love the waiters, whose personalities are as large as their waistlines (a byproduct of their passion for food no doubt).

And the stunning menu of Sardinian classics impressed us just as much as the service.

Spectacular maiale with broad beans at Il paradiso del cibo
Stunning steak tagliata with rosemary potatoes and rocket salad

These guys know about good food (and they kind of know it too) but there’s nothing really wrong with that is there? Make sure you visit if in York, don’t bother bringing your manners.

And from Italian classics to British ones, we felt it would almost be criminal to visit York without sampling it’s most famous export, the Yorkshire pudding.

So we walked across the city walls, up and down Clifford’s tower and around cobbled roads until we’d thoroughly worked up an appetite for a Sunday roast blowout.

We headed to the Walmgate Alehouse and bistro, a historical tavern which has reviews as York’s best Sunday roast. And the Yorkshires were not a let down…

Giant Yorkshires at Walmgate
Starter heaven, beetroot cured salmon with fennel and horseradish cream

The roast at Walmgate was a solid choice, beautifully cooked meat with fab gravy and airy big Yorkshires, though it was somewhat let down by the tough roast potatoes and soggy veg. If anything it was the perfectly judged starters that surprised more than anything (yes that’s right we had starters too), my beetroot cured salmon with vinegary fennel and lightly flavoured horseradish cream was a stunner, one of the best dishes I’ve had lately.

Finally, it’s worth noting that York has a brilliant brunch scene. We tried out two places during our long weekend, one in the hipster area of Fossgate called Kiosk (I think it reminded us of our new Stoke Newington home) and the other behind the Minster called Cut and Chase.

The only photo I took of Kiosk, the food was eaten immediately

Kiosk is so painfully trendy that it’s not even a restaurant, it’s called a ‘project space’. Pretentious it might be, but it served a mean grilled mushrooms on sourdough (so good I didn’t even take a photo). And my chai tea was a winner too.

Cut and Chase is a cute restaurant bar with a lovely little sunny terrace at the back and with a more unusual brunch menu than most. Here I had the smoked haddock and spinach risotto, basically a grown up version of kedgeree. It was great, packed with smoked haddock, and perfectly wilted spinach, had a gorgeous creamy flavour and was topped with a banging poached egg. Brekkie heaven.

Grown up breakfast at Cut and Chase, smoked haddock risotto

All in all, having sampled both the old and the new in York, I was impressed. This place knows it’s food and has done for a very long time.

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