On a belting summer evening, York city centre was buzzing, and it seems it is not just me enjoying this new freedom.
We are heading to Forest on Low Petergate, the restaurant of the award-winning Galtres Lodge Hotel. I am hugely curious to visit as throughout lockdown, I watched young owners Rebecca Hill and Christopher Layton on Instagram working long and hard on their hotel and restaurant.
The transformation of the latter was nothing short of astounding in what they appeared to have achieved.
In reality, the place is even more charming than its Insta profile shows it to be. We are enchanted before we even walk through the door. Forest is the name (after the ancient Forest of Galtres) and most certainly is the theme as the entrance and exterior walls are dripping with greenery.
It is dark inside, or so it seems after the bright sunshine, and as our eyes adjust, it is one of the most charming and unusual interiors I have been in, in a long time, and it is not dark as I first thought, but beautifully cosy.
The place is full of curiosities, the furniture repurposed, and greenery, though without sufficient natural light, most examples are fake but still look fab.
There are a few different rooms, but each flows into the other, and there’s an extremely lovely canvas sail covered outside space which is full – surprise, surprise. Doors and windows are thrown open, and a pleasant breeze wafts through which we are fortunately right in the middle of, making it a lovely place to be seated and a great spot to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the restaurant.
There is no head chef at Forest but a team who work the kitchen and what turned out to be an excellent team out front. The menu is not over complicated with five starters, six mains, an assortment of sides and five puds.
So not extensive but there are some tasty offerings which we discuss long and hard as it seems we both want the same. I get to win on starters with a crispy egg and grilled asparagus on Forest salad; he is happy to have the quirkily named What the Duck.
My egg is nicely crispy, though a little flat; I expected it to be – well – egg-shaped, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.
The asparagus, which, as it’s July, I wouldn’t expect to be local, is a little lost as two thin spears chopped in two and brings little to the dish except for disappointment as who doesn’t love a fat spear dipped into a runny yolk?
The Forest salad, though, is a tasty cornucopia of bits and bobs, tastes and textures, and there’s only one thing that for me got in the way, and that was a jammy-jelly smeared on top which seemed excessive with so much else going on.
The duck was a play on star anise infused duck confit coming as a tasty spring roll with mango dressing, a ubiquitous duck lollipop and more confit in a lettuce wrap which sadly was just a little dried out, though the Hoisin sauce helped put back a little moisture.
My Whitby and Bridlington crab Thermidor was beautifully cooked and extremely tasty with the right balance of cheese and brandy to allow the crab to take centre stage. Something went a little awry with the veg, as though the potatoes and courgettes used were excellent quality, there was a lot of water pooling in the bottom of the bowl, I assume from the courgettes.
A lightly spiced Nidderdale chicken breast was tasty and succulent, the veg on this dish was roasted so fared better than mine, and the jammy stuff raised its head again, but was seemingly more appropriate on this dish we agreed.
Puds were great; he was looking forward to a Sloemotion hedgerow gin and tonic cheesecake as soon as he spotted it on the menu and it did not disappoint, though he did say it was a little large, which amused me as he did manage to eat it all. My N’eaton Tidy was a twist on, you guessed it, Eton Mess, but with elderflower jelly.
Hats off to the whole team at Forest; it is a delightful place with a few tweaks needed here and there with the food, but nothing that can’t be put right easily.
Perhaps more staff are required to cope with the restaurant’s growing popularity, but as they are as rare as hen’s teeth right now, that may be a big ask. I am looking forward to going back.
Forest Restaurant, 54 Low Petergate, York YO1 7HZ, Tel: 01904 622 478. Dinner for two with a couple of glasses of wine, £81.80. Open daily, 5-9pm.