Sarah Cotterill city hops to visit this Michelin hopeful
Peasholme Green, just off York’s tourist trail, is a funny spot for fine dining. Close to the food saturated centre, Foss Island supermarket complex. Okay this isn’t Leeds, but we love an accolade, and ‘Michelin tipped’ is good enough for us.
The Old Coach House hasn’t been a recipe for restaurant success in the past - hard to believe, given it once served the best Italian meal I’ve had outside of Italy. Le Langhe, with its heady truffle scent, silky pasta and endless cheese counter, was a hidden gem, sorely missed by those in the know.
They say “certainly” too much, but they wear cotton grey aprons, and they smile.
Adam and Lovaine Humphreys, who originally opened a place in Sydney, took over the deli last year, inheriting Le Langhe’s formidable wine cellar with it - a silver lining indeed. This is southern hemisphere meets north, with a bit of East Yorkshire in the mix too. Not in homage to France’s WWI battlefield, but to Arras Hill just outside Market Weighton, where chef Adam grew up.
One step inside, and it’s hard to tell if the cuisine will be more Humber Estuary or Walsh Bay. The bold street art could be aboriginal; the embossed wave design, the pinstripe chairs, could be, well…anywhere. It’s weirdly corporate, and yet staff are welcoming. They say “certainly” too much, but they wear cotton grey aprons, and they smile.
Having booked for ‘the kitchen menu’, mentioning one pescatarian, we were about to need our sea legs. No less than four fish dishes awaited – which seemed a little OTT. Not wanting to subject my date to the aforementioned “exciting eel”, we decided to choose off the a la carte instead at three courses for £45, or two courses for £35.
A square plate of aperitifs arrives; a bitesize samosa filled with salt cod; deep fried rigatoni stuffed with ricotta and olives; and a festive little camembert number. I still don’t know where or when we are. Maybe the word seasonality gets bandied around too much these days. Down under it’s 25°C at Christmas time anyway.
However, it’s still August, so we go for a zesty Tall Martin (£8.50), and a Fowles ‘Are You Game?’ Vermentino (£7.50) - a non-acidic sparkling Aussie wine that sings summer. Next, the Arras daily bread, a quinoa studded loaf with a sphere of salt flaked butter on a white kidney dish. At The Pipe & Glass you only get one measly slice, so this is great. The chewy floury crust is made for dipping in the mini cast iron pot of velouté that comes as an amuse bouche; smooth, garlicky celeriac with tiny balls of apple that burst in your mouth, fresh against the warm hum of black truffle. It’s a rustic start to a meal soon to turn full Jackson Pollock.
Adam certainly isn’t shy; right at the top, the starter we didn't choose; ‘Beef tartare 2018 - non traditional garnishes’, in its own quotations. My starter was less cavalier; artichokes Burgundy-style, mushroom, potato and walnuts, rich and savoury, despite the floral tweezer work on the plate. The baked ring of julienned potato is a tough house for an earthy mushroom pate. Suddenly the Vermentino seems sickly sweet.
Niçoise-style red mullet, was next, in a spiced tomato broth (effortlessly poured), a torched roll of octopus curls in the middle. The kitchen is clearly influenced by Australia’s love of surf and turf, adept at balancing that symbiosis of land and sea - apparent in my next dish of grilled tuna, lentils, pear and rosemary. Another artwork, topped with a crispy paprika laced nest and more flowers. The tuna is served pink, but it’s meaty. The flavours shouldn’t work, but somehow they do. Even the glazed duck has a tinge of salt water from the salsify, long tendrils of carrot dotted with puree resembles a creature of the deep. Someone is handy with a piping bag.
Each course demonstrates real technical skill. The third; ‘veiled peasant girls’, is a layered terrine with dehydrated apple and oat shards fanning out like the Sydney Opera House, a pool of neon granny smith gel below.
The cheese trolley is impressive, but the petit fours are another level. A bit gimmicky, perhaps, but the giant Perspex tray will turn you from respectable fine-diner, to a kid in a candy shop. Multicoloured sugar lollies, Wagon Wheels, coconut ice, Jammy Dodgers, honeycomb. Pure nostalgia. I choose a mini cone of plum ice cream, slotted into my own acrylic tray, like a school DT project. It’s definitely not plum, but a jolly finish.
Arras is at odds with the rest of York’s dining scene, which revels in history, the traditional, the artisanal. Everything here screams new; the graphic decor, the acrylic trays, the blue lighting, which is as offensive as your neighbour’s topiary come December. With Tommy Banks’ Roots set to open in a few months, how will it fare against his foraged, homely aesthetic? Only time will tell.
Arras - The Old Coach House, Peasholme Green, York YO1 7PW
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Artichokes Burgundy Style 6, Nicoise Style Red Mullet 8, Grilled Tuna 9, Glazed Duck 8, Veiled Peasant Girls 8, Petit Fours 6
These guys have been trained to a T
We were glad when more customers joined us