If you’ve ever taken the Eurostar from St Pancras you will know it’s a railway station like no other. There are 20 different food and drink outlets that range from Gelato Mio to Searcy’s Champagne Bar. It’s a far cry from British Rail’s curling sandwiches and foul coffee.
Things are improving in Yorkshire, too. Sheffield station has the marvellous Sheffield Tap, a real ale bar in the former First Class Refreshment Rooms and the same people have opened the York Tap in a gorgeous period building at the entrance to York railway station. And at the end of November another listed building on Platform 8 of York station, will house Filmore & Union, a stylish independent café and takeaway.
It won’t be the first Filmore & Union. There are already branches in Harrogate, Wetherby and the flagship in York’s Petergate, which opened nine months ago. It’s been a rapid expansion for a brand that promotes healthy, dairy-free, gluten-free and (not exclusively) vegetarian food.
Any idea of Filmore & Union earnestly flogging an over-worthy wholefood message is dispelled when we check out the York branch. The lanterns, rococo mirrors, bleached grey floor boards, scrubbed tables and French country chairs give you an idea. Simple white crockery and draped fur throws add a faintly Scandinavian air. There’s a cool, contemporary café and takeaway downstairs; brunch and evening meals upstairs.
The dining menu of five starters and five mains is immediately appealing: Serrano ham with blue cheese, pistachios and roasted red peppers; scallops with butternut squash and herb dressing, a couple of soups of the day and an excellent pear and goat’s cheese tart that we sample. It is beautifully seasonal, the pears nicely matched with a mild goat’s cheese and zinged up with a spicy apple and tomato chutney. We also tried a salad of warm beetroot topped with mascarpone and a scattering of walnuts. It’s nothing you couldn’t do at home – if only you’d thought of it – and the end result is a soothing partnership of earthy beetroot and cool mascarpone with the added crunch of walnuts. Just the dish for our chilly autumn evening.
At mains there is steak, and a bit surprising for this right-on restaurant, it is served with unseasonal asparagus. Pork is paired with sumac roasted pears. Our choice of coley has been marinated in yoghurt, coriander and spices and comes with couscous bursting with herbs, pistachio nuts and some gentle spicing. It is very tasty, though a sauce or a spoonful of yoghurt would have added some necessary moisture. Same. too, for the rosemary roasted chicken, lovely flavours, a welcome crunch of pine nut, but a touch overdone.
The salad and vegetables served alongside are an object lesson to every kitchen that thinks a side dish of plain boiled carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, baby corn, mange tout et al still cuts it. Here we were given two large bowls, one of butternut squash with cumin seeds and spiced parsnips which was terrific, and another bowl brimming with a salad of quinoa, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes and olives.
Over and above the excellence of the vegetables, vegetarians are respected with a choice of three or four starters and an interesting main of roast butternut squash stuffed with mushrooms, spinach and feta served with aubergine paté. It comes as no surprise to learn that such sensitivity to the needs of veggies, coeliacs and the rest, comes from someone committed to the virtues of healthy, nutritious, wholefood.
Adele Carnell ran a Harrogate-based “wellness clinic” operation for nine years before deciding to concentrate on the good food she was recommending to her clients. She named it after two of her favourite streets in San Francisco.
Appointing her nephew as executive chef was no idle nepotism. Will Pugh’s CV includes Leeds restaurants Guellers, Arts Café, Loch Fyne and Leeds Seventeen. More importantly he knows how to give wholefood a friendly face. Desserts for instance are fruit-based rather than carb loaded: blueberry and rosemary crème brulee; baked peaches with vanilla mousse, Eton mess, and chocolate, hazelnut and fig torte.
Eton mess with strawberries and Greek yoghurt didn’t have the full-fat deliciousness of double cream, and the torte though delightfully crammed with nuts was a bit dense and heavy, but this was a small reproach in what was an imaginative meal served in agreeable surroundings by a knowledgeable team. Indeed, the staff are delightful – welcoming and well briefed.
In short Filmore & Union wears its credentials lightly, and confirms, if anyone still needed persuading, that good, fresh, nutritious food doesn’t have to be as dull as those pioneering wholefood restaurants of the 1970s. They’ve cracked it. Just so long as they don’t lose their soul along the way of rapid expansion.
Filmore & Union, 62a Low Petergate, York YO1 7HZ. 01904 654123, www.filmoreandunion.com
Open: Mon-Thur: 8am-10pm, Fri & Sat: 8am-11pm, Sun: 9am-10pm.
Price: approx. £33 per person plus wine and coffee.