A return trip to York, on a day that felt so quintessentially British (wintry sun casting its radiant glow ‘pon the Minster; a busker bashing out Bowie; a visit to Boots for olbas oil;) that you half expect the cast of St Trinian’s to cycle past, all high-jinksy.
A visit – our first, shamefully – to the ace House of Trembling Madness for well-curated refreshment, where generous plates of hearty, gravy-slathered fodder are, somehow, prepped and dispatched from a shelf behind the bar that we’ll grandiosely call ‘the kitchen’.
It’s tightly packed up there but if you’re into a good swill, and/or taxidermy – who isn’t? – go and pay homage before they have to shift premises. Because what York needs is more Betty’s.
Thirst quenched, a couple of appreciative laps round the Minster chucked in, (round the outside: as if I’m paying 15 quid entry) and the appetite builds.
For good measure, I took Asbestos Tongue rapidly up the Shambles. She loved it.
In a nod, probably, to its Michelin-starred big bro in the Dales, there’s a warm, tweedy, country pile feel to Star Inn the City when you first park your arse. No fustiness, though, and that long, glass-sided dining room looking over the river’s a belter.
Food’s not too shabby, either. Dishes like Rabbit BLT (£9) – strips of gamey meat between charred slices of bread, smeared with bacon mayo – and Venison Bolognese – probably the deepest & most luxe version to land in this cakehole – strike a balance between ‘fancy’ and ‘feedy’, a theme that continues for the duration.
Sturdy mains – a fist of pearly cod (£24); noisettes of blusher-pink lamb (£22) with fat as moreish as the flesh – are spruced up with some handy bits and pieces: bang-on buttery scallops, salty salami from that posh butcher in Ilkey, and a shallot sauce for the fish; soily carrots, proper spuds and a nearly-but-not-quite-too punchy olive and anchovy pastry thing with the lamb.
“Balanced” is, I believe, the technical term.
A note. We stopped accepting free invites and such a while back, partly ‘cos it can get proper awkward, but mainly ‘cos that Dad’s Army boxset won’t watch itself. So in the interest of transparency we’ll state that the rhubarb dessert we were going to order – the crumble, naturally – was nowt like the one that arrived.
Instead we were treated to a few rhubarby riffs: a dollop of velvety ice-cream, a down-in-one schnapps and a mini pot of that crumble which, nitpicking, could have done with a smattering of extra topping. A wedge of parkin added a welcome spark of gingery sweetness to the earthy
fruit veg rhubarb. Chefs be playing.
Booze ranges between Black Sheep on the bar to distinctive wines from small-scale producers dotted hither and thither. We were guided by the obliging Greg, who knew his barrel-aged, un-oaked onions as well as any.
As their website says, this might be “simple Yorkshire cooking,” but it takes a steady hand and no little skill to get “simple” stuff as cock-on as this.