The Refectory Kitchen, York

York is somewhere I don't go to often enough. And I absolutely should, it's crammed full of quirky, independent shops, lovely cafes and during December so many gorgeous market stalls with goodies galore. It looks so festive and it's a great place to find something a little different from the usual high street finds.  I'm planning on going back soon to finish off my Christmas shopping. 

A couple of weeks ago I popped to York with my friend as I was very kindly invited to dine at the new restaurant The Refectory Kitchen. Recently opened as part of the Royal York Hotel, it's location right next to the station is the perfect spot for lunch or dinner before nipping back home on the train to Leeds. The Refectory Kitchen has been developed with London restaurateur Des McDonald, once Head Chef at The Ivy and now leading his own consultancy business opening critically acclaimed restaurants all over the UK.  The interior and outdoor terrace of The Refectory Kitchen is designed by award winning architects, Michaelis Boyd whose previous work includes the Soho House and the Groucho Club. I loved the outdoor area with it's mix of Tolix chairs and beautiful contemporary wooden planters filled with evergreens and herbs. It will be a fantastic place to have a drink in the summertime. 

If you know me in real life, or even if you read this blog regularly, you will know that I think about food pretty much all of the time. I'm always planning what to cook or bake next or looking for a new cafe to go eat cake in.  I'm passionate about eating food that is locally sourced or grown and in season and that's the same goal that The Refectory Kitchen has. Executive Chef Nick Evans has created a menu that's all about seasonality and championing the local produce of Yorkshire.  

The restaurant is open seven days a week, all day, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It also welcomes families and has a simple yet appealing kids menu. We were seated quickly, our waitress was friendly and super attentive and we were handed menus which were so pretty with their botanical illustrations on the cover. I was invited to try out a three course lunch, although I knew I wouldn't be able to manage all three. So my friend and I both plumped for a main course with two side dishes to share and a pudding. Wine was ordered and we were served a board of crusty bread, still warm from the oven and a little pat of Abernethy butter (not local, made in County Down but it is used in the top restaurants and by chefs such as Heston Blumenthal). The bread was a delicious accompaniment to our glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

I wandered off to take some pictures before our main courses were served as I wanted to photograph some of the interior. The restaurant is housed in a conservatory-like room, so it's light and airy with all the glass, yet still has a nice cosy feel from the wood, rustic touches and the evergreen planting. There were so many beautiful details - little pots of fresh lemon thyme on the table, old vintage crates used as planters on the windowsill, miniature citrus trees and spilling over the top of the bar are pots of ivy. But for me it was all about the lighting - old glass bottles with filament bulbs hanging from an old industrial pulley were a lovely recycled touch. 

For a main course I'd ordered the roast pumpkin, sage and barley risotto. My friend had the East Coast slip soles, brown shrimps, capers and lemon. We ordered two sides to share, the truffle chips and the wilted greens with garlic. My friend said her fish was delicious and had some questions for the staff about the difference between sole and slip sole and they were able to answer her (for the record it's a small sole commonly found in the North Sea at this time of year). My meal was good too and I love a risotto made with pearl barley. It's something we make fairly regularly at this time of year as it's good, hearty food and less stodgy than your typical risotto rice. It was teamed with a locally grown pumpkin, roasted and served with crispy sage pieces. I never use sage in the kitchen as generally I'm not a big fan of the flavour although I adore the scent, but I really enjoyed it cooked this way. Scattered on the top were toasted pumpkin seeds which added a nice little crunch. I was keen to try the truffle fries as I flippin' love the stuff, and they didn't disappoint, crispy chips with just the right amount of seasoning and truffle flavour.  The wilted greens were a nice, simple side and complimented my friend's dish more than mine. But then, I don't really think you need anything on the side of a risotto except a big old glass of wine!

And then came the puddings. My friend chose the Blackberry queen of puddings and I opted for the stem ginger Parkin with vanilla custard. Our eyes nearly popped out of our head when we saw her pudding arrive. It was super elegant with it's meringue crown, filled with a creme brulee base that's made with breadcrumbs. Then topped with blackberry sauce and tart berries on the top. My friend thought it was amazing and the perfect combination of sweet and sour. My stem ginger Parkin was nicely presented in a heavy, rustic bowl. The custard was luscious, as custard should be, and I did enjoy the Parkin but felt that I couldn't really taste the ginger that much, just in occasional spoonfuls. It was lovely and moist, not dry like some Parkin can turn out, and it rounded off my meal perfectly.  

We really enjoyed our lunch at the Refectory Kitchen. So handy for the train station with a beautiful light and airy interior, attentive and friendly service, it is a very nice addition to the York food scene. Next time I'll have a visit to the Chapter House Bar which is part of the Royal York Hotel family. I'm rather fancying a glass of their spiked cider...... 

*We were very kindly given two complimentary three-course lunches and a bottle of wine at The Refectory Kitchen, York. All words, opinions, photographs are my own.