Old Liquor Store, York: We tried out the new restauarnt set in the old Terry’s chocolate factory
There is something so nostalgic for me, not just in the name of the Old Liquor Store restaurant and bar newly opened in York, but the heritage of the grade II-listed building where it is sited.
The original liquor store was built in 1927 at the Terry’s chocolate factory on Bishopthorpe Road to house the rum and the coffee beans imported from America for the chocolate, which would eventually become the rum truffles in a box of Terry’s All Gold.
There is something so nostalgic for me, not just in the name of the Old Liquor Store restaurant and bar newly opened in York, but the heritage of the grade 2 listed building where it is sited. The original liquor store was built in 1927 at the Terry's chocolate factory on Bishopthorpe Road to house the rum and the coffee beans imported from America for the chocolate, which would eventually become the rum truffles in a box of Terry's All Gold.
Just mentioning those chocolates reminds me so much of my late mum and the box we kids would buy her for birthdays and Christmas; though rum truffles were not my favourite, that honour went to the strawberry cream.
The chocolate factory and liquor store closed on 30 September 2005 with the loss of 316 jobs and has gentrified into “The Residence” housing 163 luxury apartments and penthouses with the liquor store and famous Terry’s clock tower the last to be developed.
However, there was a long delay in the restaurant's opening due to objections from some of the nearby residents around selling alcohol. They worried that alcohol-fuelled customers meant late-night noise, which understandably would affect them - though it did cross my mind that, given that they live next to York Racecourse, I am sure they are used to some disturbance. However, with some quite stringent measures in place to appease those nearby, the restaurant and bar is now open.
The Old Liquor Store is a lovely neighbourhood restaurant with its laid-back approach and décor that has beautifully kept most of the building's architectural features and industrial heritage.
They are open from 9 am with an all-day menu, which will whisk you from the morning and breakfast with a delectable fat bacon butty, sourdough toast, Ricotta pancakes and the like. Lunch offers hefty deli sandwiches, pizzetta, cheeses and on and on.
They are only open on Friday and Saturday evenings for their popular small-plate Italian-style menu, and I am reliably told they make a cracking Sunday lunch, too. You can come for coffee, a drink from the bar, a snack or a full-on dinner. And if you fancy a walk, it is only 15 minutes from the city centre.
The prime mover behind this relaxing concept is publican Ben Williams, owner of several food and wine venues but known in Yorkshire for his role at the Rose and Crown at Sutton in the Forest in its heyday. Heading up the kitchen is the lovely Matt Lievers, who has spent many years with Andrew Pern as head chef at the Star in the City. So, the Old Liquor Store is in very capable hands, it seems.
Though there has been a soft opening here over a few weeks, the evening menus are quite new, and we have a few back-and-forth questions about the menu and how it works here - the plates come out as directed by the kitchen.
The organic credentials of the wines on offer were very unclear but I felt OK with the slight confusion as it is early days and some of the staff are very new, and their willingness to pleasingly get things right is to be admired.
We start with snacks to have with our wine. Calia e Simenza (roasted and spiced chickpeas and pumpkin seeds) fare less well than their charming Italian name; they are soft, lightly roasted and someone forgot the spice?
They also served the braised beef stuffed fried paccheri pasta - which they describe as a snack - in with the main event food where it was overshadowed by the other plates and was a rather odd mix with some only pasta without any stuffing and others bursting with beef.
Then from a slow start and a longish pause between events, the main plates started to arrive. They did not disappoint.
Small plate they may have said but my crudo of North Sea halibut with Cerinola olives was plentiful and was no sloucher on taste, it sang from the plate. The fat slices of squeaky fresh fish with the copious earthy Puttanesca dressing and crispy anchovies were a flavour-packed triumph.
While waiting for our food we had spied the freshly cooked stone-baked pizzette whizzing by to nearby tables. We decided there and then to definitely order one and had quite a squabble choosing which one to share. We decided on the Finochiona – the famously wonderful fennel salami of Tuscany - with melting soft, sweet fior di latte, a mêlée of agrodolce onions, charred radicchio and toasted walnuts. Next time we are having one each, it was so good.
We deviate from Italy to the honky-tonk of New Orleans and a lobster and shrimp po-boy. The famous multi-layered sandwich slathered in thousand island dressing here at the Old Liquor store did the Big-Easy proud with lots of shrimp, lobster chunks. Amalfi lemons, iceberg and fried capers.
And in a lovely homage to the heritage of the building and Terry’s, we finished with a dessert of “Terry-misu” - a beautifully executed ‘orange’ with York cocoa works bitter chocolate, orange (jelly) mascarpone and harmony coffee.
What a super place this is, the food - bar a few bits - is excellent, the staff are so friendly and eager to make this work, the vibe upbeat yet quietly professional. A great start for them and I wish them well.
One final note, if you decide to visit, and I hope you do, beware of the parking as it is confusing, and there's not much of it. There are designated bays at the front of the building, and I'm told parking on nearby streets. But within The Residence area, there are clear rules on where you can park, and strict enforcement should you not.
The Old Liquor Store, Bishopthorpe Rd, York YO23 1FT Tel: 01904 950147
Open Wed & Thurs: 9 am – 6 pm, Fri & Sat: 9 am – 11 pm, Sun: 9 am – 5 pm