Lunch@Arras, York

After a fabulous morning walking round York Minster and the city walls, we are heading for Arras and lunch.  Arras is a relatively new restaurant opened by Adam and Lovaine Humphrey who, though both English, had opened the original Arras in Australia before being drawn back to the UK.

Let’s start with the negatives – there are only two and they are both small.  Firstly, some of the tracks on the Arras lunchtime playlist are a little bizarre.  I like driving rock music when I’m…driving.  When I’m having lunch I want something a little more chilled.  Second, I am briefly disappointed by the relatively limited beer menu.  It doesn’t take me very long to choose Maris the Otter by Brew York, a smooth English bitter named after the Maris Otter variety of malt.  However, my modest disappointment disappears when I read the food menu.  Three courses, just three choices for each course – but every choice sounds interesting!P1050981a

Rock starts with the grilled mackerel, brassicas and apple.  The mackerel has been marinated before grilling and it works perfectly with the brassica and apple.  I have the braised pork cheek with fermented rye grain, sauerkraut jelly and mustard sauce.  The pork is as tender as anything and the great flavours of sauerkraut and mustard are there but they do not overpower the pork.  Both dishes are beautifully presented and taste fantastic.

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Is Arras going to be one of those places that presents you with fabulous starters and then follows with far less inspiring main courses?  We soon have the answer…a definite no.  Rock is even harder to impress than I am – but she really is impressed by her roast poussin, celeriac remoulade, mushrooms and lovage emulsion. How have they managed to infuse so much flavour into a roast poultry dish?  My stone bass with puy lentils, cucumber and crab is also wonderful. The fish is perfectly cooked, crispy skin and flaky white flesh. Balancing a combination of flavours is the key when being inventive and this kitchen contains at least one person with a very finely tuned palate.

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As is often the case, we decide to share a dessert.  Another exquisitely presented plate arrives with cinnamon crumble in the centre, topped with a yoghurt sorbet.  Segments of orange, chunks of orange jelly and small pieces of frozen berry all sitting on a red berry jus surround the crumble.  Plus, draped across the plate… a square snake of vanilla and ricotta mousse. It is a fantastic collection of sweet and sharp, soft and crunchy taste sensations.  Again the quality of each component and the balance of flavours borders on perfection.

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All five dishes were incredibly well balanced with some unusual flavour combinations that really worked – if Arras can do that consistently they should be in line for a Michelin star!  We also had really informative and efficient service from Charles.

If you live in York or you are planning to visit York and you want a high quality food experience – we strongly recommend that you try Arras.

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Dinner@The Star Inn, Harome

When we went to The Star Inn at Harome a few years ago, we absolutely loved the food and the ambience of the place. It has been a regular in both the Good Food Guide and the Good Pub Guide for a very long time. So tonight, as we head there for dinner, our expectations are absurdly high.

It seems bigger and smarter than I remember and now feels a little more like a fine dining establishment than a gastropub. We are soon presented with an amuse bouche of warm cheese and fennel sablets with a Hambleton ale relish. The sablets and the relish are both excellent.

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Cheese & fennel sablets with Hambleton ale relish

I order a pint of the Two Chefs ale. I last had this beer at the Pipe & Glass and the name refers to the fact that it was created by James from the Pipe & Glass and Andrew Pern from here at the Star at Harome. I was not overly impressed when I tried it before but, second time around, I am really enjoying the fragrant notes of cinnamon and nutmeg that come through the ale.

Rock has the gravadlax of oak-smoked halibut with sourdough crumpets, oyster emulsion, mayonnaise and sea vegetables. It is perfectly fine but she is not as wowed as she hoped to be. I have the freshly steamed Isle of Shuna mussels mariniére. I am wowed – the mussels are superb.

Planning ahead to leave room for dessert, Rock has another starter for her main course – ravioli of beer braised oxtail with fresh horseradish shavings, kitchen garden flowers, leaves and vegetables. She is surprised to find that the ravioli contains very little oxtail and a significant amount of chicken mousse. She doesn’t like the dish at all and leaves it almost untouched …on the plus side, now she has plenty of room for dessert.

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Beer braised oxtail ravioli 

We are being looked after by Jen and Alex. The ravioli is immediately taken off the bill and both work hard to try and ensure that Rock is enjoying herself. I have the saddle of local venison cooked over charcoal with a startling range of accompaniments – coffee bean carrots, pistachio cake, pickled cherries and ‘twiglets’. The venison is very good and, although I enjoy some of the added extras, I am starting to feel that the kitchen is trying too hard to be inventive.

Rock moves on to the spiced braised pineapple with a pineapple sorbet and she is back in the game. I have the gooseberry and lemon verbena rice pudding with an elderflower custard doughnut. The rice pudding is a great balance of sweet and sour and I have an excellent elderflower spritzer to go with it.

While we can’t ignore the ravioli, which was a travesty compared to the oxtail pasta dish we had at Mannion & Co, the rest of the food was very good indeed. The drinks were excellent and the service, from Jen and Alex, was superb.

Coffee, cake & lunch@Mannion & Co

We hit upon Mannion & Co because we heard it was a good place for coffee and cake. It has become almost a regular daily stop for us over our two weeks in Yorkshire and not just for coffee!

Their coffee is fabulous and so are their cakes. Over several days we tried the blueberry & thyme frangipane tart (the thyme makes all the difference), the fabulous peanut financier and the lemon & passionfruit tart decorated with raspberries and blueberries.

I had no doubt that I would blog about Mannion & Co. But, in order to give them the attention they really deserve and also because we can’t wait to see what they can do with savoury dishes – we are now here for lunch!

Rock has a thing for elderflower based drinks and Mannion & Co stock her favourite, Fentiman’s wild English. Not as sweet as most bottled drinks and she loves it. As usual, I’m trying something unusual, Er Bocherōn, beer made with sea water. If you can’t use your sea water to generate tidal electricity then generating beer is definitely another excellent way to use it.

We’ve already had a taste of Yorkshire portion sizes, so we decide to share a starter and a main course. A sausage roll to start but not any sausage roll. Fabulous layers of crisp flaky pastry, topped with sesame seeds, wrapped around a huge slice of beautifully flavoured sausagemeat and served with a chutney plus a bowl of salad and pickles. Extraordinary!

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The sausage roll!

Our main course is the oxtail ragu with fennel pappardelle and fresh horseradish. Incredibly delicate pasta, the oxtail and the fennel working beautifully together and just enough fresh horseradish to take the overall taste sensation to a whole new level. This is almost certainly the best pasta dish we’ve had outside Italy!

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Oxtail ragu with fennel pappardelle & fresh horseradish

We take the opportunity to chat to Andrew Burton, who set up Mannion & Co in both York and Helmsley, about the focus on quality in his approach to food, the incredible pasta dish created by Matt and the fantastically friendly and helpful service we received from Rachel.

If you are in Helmsley you have to try Mannion & Co. If you are near Helmsley, make a detour to Mannion & Co. If you are thinking of travelling to Yorkshire – build Mannion & Co into your plans!

Lunch@The Pot Kiln, Frilsham

At first glance The Pot Kiln may appear to be a traditional English pub in the West Berkshire countryside but it’s approach to food is quite different to most other pubs. Named as one of the Top 100 restaurants in the UK 2017 by The Sunday Times, the menu has a strong focus on game including venison from locally culled wild deer.

The Pot Kiln was also the original home of the West Berkshire Brewery but no single brewery has a monopoly on the beer on sale today as now it is a free house. This means there should be some great ales for me to try and I start with the Brick Kiln Bitter – created specially for this place by the West Berkshire brewers. It is a dark amber, earthy bitter – perfectly fine but not my favourite from this brewery.

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Rock chooses to kick off with the beetroot cured gravadlax with beetroot in counter and dice shapes, horseradish cream and pickled cucumber. The quality of the dish is outstanding and she is very happy with her choice. I go for the wood pigeon salad served with bacon, black pudding, mushrooms and darts of balsamic glaze. The wood pigeon is quite rare but it is also tender and works fantastically with the black pudding. So far, so very good.

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Beetroot cured gravadlax, beetroot, horseradish cream & pickled cucumber
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Wood pigeon salad, bacon, black pudding, mushrooms & balsamic glaze

I need a second beer and I want to try another West Berkshire ale that I’ve not had before. Mister Swift’s is a light, fruity pale ale, I really like it and it gets a high mark on my personal beer scorecard.

We both feel that the best next move is to choose venison for our main course. I have the grilled pavé of fallow served with pomme purée, cavolo nero, game stuffing and a pool of red wine gravy. The pomme purée could have been creamier but, I’m really nitpicking, overall the dish is fabulous. Rock has the venison burger served with incredible crispy potato wedges stacked like dominoes (I sneak some of them onto my plate), a rich home-made tomato sauce and their own coleslaw. Wow, that’s a real winner!

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Grilled pavé of fallow served with pomme purée, cavolo nero, game stuffing & red wine gravy
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Venison burger, crispy potato wedges, home-made tomato sauce & coleslaw

We have really enjoyed decent beer, fantastic food and fabulous service from Claudia. If you are looking to find a great place to eat game – don’t take up some sort of trivial pursuit – the Pot Kiln is the only game in town!

Breakfast@Lynwood&Co, Lechlade

If you read The Guardian’s ’50 best breakfast places in the UK’ it almost feels like they have been reading this blog. Six of the 50 places have been featured in WadeandRockandFood. However, the article did bring one nearby place to our attention that we have not visited – Lynwood & Co.

This cafe in Lechlade has a relaxed friendly atmosphere. It is owned by Australian, Rob Broadbent, who makes an extraordinary flat white for Rock and an equally beautiful cappucino for me. Great coffee makes a great start to any breakfast. Can the food match the coffee?

We don’t have to wait long to find out – even though every item is freshly cooked. I have scrambled eggs on sourdough toast with smoked salmon. It is sensational but, at first, I can’t exactly work out why. Then, I taste the bacon sandwich that Rock has ordered and is raving about between mouthfuls. Now I understand – it is the bread!

The bread is made by Max Abbott of Sourdough Revolution. His bread is the lightest sourdough I have ever tasted and it is full of flavour. Max is in the cafe while we are there and takes the time to chat to us about his baking process.  Indeed, it’s all about time with Max – his starter goes through stages of fermentation and then his dough is fermented before being put in the fridge for several hours. In effect, each loaf takes days from starter to baking!

While chatting I try a pot of the tea. Only because I’m aiming to linger here for as long as possible. The tea is very good but it does not reach the standard set by the coffee.

Just in case I have not made myself clear – the bacon on Rock’s sandwich is fantastic and the smoked salmon on my plate is equally fabulous. In any normal breakfast – these would be the stars of the show. But this is not normal, here the coffee and the bread outshine all the other stars – Lynwood & Co is simply on another level!

Breakfast@The Black Penny, Covent Gdn

I’m with Rock & Neko and it is the morning after the final night of the World Athletics Championships. We had an exhilarating time at the Olympic Stadium and now we are going to try and find a breakfast worthy of the podium. We are heading to The Black Penny on the edge of Covent Garden.

The fastest way for any breakfast to get off the starting blocks is with a great coffee. We order three flat whites and study the menu. The coffee soon arrives together with a jug of mint-infused water. The menu has something for most people – traditional & vegetarian cooked breakfasts, hashes, breakfast buns, porridge, mueslis and juices. All dishes are freshly cooked to order.

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Neko sprints toward The Gatherer – The Black Penny’s breakfast plate for vegetarians: eggs how you like them (Neko asks for poached); sourdough toast; grilled halloumi; sautéed baby spinach; roasted tomatoes; mushrooms; and Black Penny baked beans. Neko has a huge appetite – he really loves the quality of the breakfast but he is slightly disappointed that the quantity makes the eating experience more middle distance than a marathon.

Rock’s appetite will only take her round one lap of the track but she is going for gold. She loves her poached eggs on sourdough toast, served with a side of smoked salmon… which is good because any place that serves her poor poached eggs or poor smoked salmon is definitely for the high jump.

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The relay baton has been passed to me and I find myself unable to resist The Hunter. Poached eggs, sourdough toast, grilled sausage, smoked bacon, roast tomatoes, mushrooms and Black Penny baked beans. The beans are quite fiery and, while I love the taste, they do overpower everything else on the plate.

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The Black Penny has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere enhanced by modern soul music. Service is very good and the quality of the coffee and food is excellent. Neko may have a slight issue on quantity and I may forego the baked beans next time but, overall, this was definitely a medal winning performance.

Lunch@Sosharu, Clerkenwell(2)

We’ve arrived early at Sosharu in Clerkenwell. This gives us the chance to have a drink at the bar and chat to Emily, the pastry chef, until Karla arrives to meet us for lunch. Kirin Ichiban, described as ‘Japan’s Premium Beer’ seems like a good way to start. It is highly carbonated, quite malty and not too sweet – it will work well with my lunch!

We watch the sashimi chef delicately shaving a variety of vegetables and neatly preparing fish with a huge knife and continue to chat to Emily as she creates a series of beautiful desserts. Sosharu is one of Jason Atherton’s restaurants and Emily has worked for Jason for 9 years. Very soon, however, she is leaving to work in a top New York restaurant. Karla soon arrives and we head to our table.

Karla always has the Bento Box when she is here at lunchtime and we cannot persuade her to change this habit. It is not surprising though – set out on a wooden tray (rather than a box) the seafood bento contains salmon teriyaki, a selection of seasonal pickled vegetables, a chirashi bowl of sashimi and sushi rice and a summer salad. It also looks fantastic.

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The seafood bento box

Rock and I decide to mix it up a bit though. We select: the tuna open temaki with scallion tobiko, sushi rice, avocado and fresh wasabi; the chicken karaage with lemon salt; the stuffed chicken wings with pickled turnip; and the Kyoto stuffed peppers. The open temaki is sensational and easily our favourite savoury dish.

Another Kirin Ichiban helps me toward the dessert course. Normally, Rock and I share a dessert but we are keen to try Emily’s creations and choose one each. Rock picks the strawberry & matcha roll with yoghurt & yuzu, I have the matcha mille crepe with matcha sorbet. This is a mistake – matcha is a green tea and has quite a distinct flavour – my dessert has too much matcha for me! Rock’s dessert though is beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat. This is Emily at her best!

Overall, the food has been a fabulous array of fascinating ingredients and beautiful flavours. Great service delivered in a relaxed and sophisticated environment.