I will admit to being rather excited as I made my reservation for Skosh, the eclectic restaurant on Micklegate in York, even though I had a two-month wait ahead. I could have gone sooner, but they and I had busy diaries. If you are prepared to go off-peak and have several dates to hand, you will be able to secure a table faster than I did - hopefully.
I see chef-proprietor Neil Bentinck hard at work in the open kitchen as I walk in and am delighted he is there. I genuinely like Neil and admire his determination and dedication to his small independent restaurant, which now has national acclaim, not just my praise. That acclaim has brought a lot of attention to York, which ultimately benefits all the city’s independents.
Little has changed since my last pre-Covid visit, which I find reassuring; it still looks good, unfussy and sparingly pared-back yet warm and the atmosphere potent. I was eager to get my hands on the menu and, unashamedly, Google on my phone as the food lexicon at Skosh is challenging.
The menu slips swiftly across cultures, Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines, and, as I found out, condiments with my first query of yuzu kosho - a Japanese chilli paste. Next without warning, it swerves back to Europe as basil, ricotta and radicchio pop up, and then even closer to home with Yorkshire pecorino Fiori and cull’yow - but more of that later.
For the Skosh novice, I recommend the now almost iconic hen’s egg with Old Winchester cheese, mushroom and Pedro Ximenez sherry, which has been on the menu since the start and sets you up nicely for what is to come. We munch on wild garlic flatbread and the above mentioned local aged pecorino and pickled lemon butter.
Chawanmushi - explained to us by our waiter who, it seems, knew every ingredient on the menu - is a steamed savoury egg custard that comes with white asparagus, hazelnut and truffle. For the first time at Skosh, I wasn’t overly keen on this dish as the truffle, for me, was too intense for the delicate custard.
We almost fought over an astonishingly good combination of beetroot, leek and rhubarb with creamy ricotta, basil and green tea, and a plate of seasonally appropriate fat chunks of green asparagus with a light, whisper-thin crunchy batter and a kick of salt and pepper.
Next and much closer to home was cull’yow pepper fry. The interesting name of the dish refers to a project that first started in Cornwall but is now in Yorkshire, where old ewes (yows in Yorkshire), which were once discarded when their breeding days were over, are now given a new lease of life on rich pasture land. They are fattened up again, and the meat once hung is superb. All this bears testament as the cull’yow at Skosh was an incredible piece of rich, tender meat served with pomegranate and pickled onion, which beautifully cut through any fattiness in the dish.
For afters, there’s a savoury choice of a Rollright cheese and truffle crumpet with yellow turnip pickle or Perl Las cheese, caramelised chicory granita, pink grapefruit and spiced mamra (puffed rice). But sweet is wanted, and a banzu (banana and yuzu) shake with a salted caramel choc chip cookie is much appreciated, as is a Bengali steamed yoghurty cream of bhapa doi with rhubarb, spiky blood orange, pistachio and Bengal pepper. Both are delicious and the fitting end to our superb dinner.
Neil takes five minutes out of the kitchen for a quick chat and he tells me of plans afoot at Skosh, which I am delighted about. Having said that, there’s a part of me that likes things the way they are and doesn’t like change but of course, that is selfish. I have every trust in Neil and the skill and flair of the whole team that they will continue to flourish, and it has been so exciting over the past six years to see them evolve, grow in confidence and their daring to innovate, so really, I am excited about what may come next.
All will be revealed before too long - watch this space.
Skosh, 98 Micklegate, York YO1 6JX Tel: 01904 634849 Open: Wednesday to Saturday, 12-2pm and 5.30-10pm, Sunday, 12-4pm. Dinner for two with wine, £102.34.