The former Cave Du Cochon in York has reopened as the Wright  Place.

If you’ve ever watched Chef’s Table, the exquisitely filmed foodie series on Netflix, you will know all about the obsessive chefs who live for their art. For the most part, the films feature starry, high-end restaurants but the latest series is much less prosaic. It’s six episodes about pizza. Who knew there was so much to say about the humble pie.

The series has plenty to say. There is Ann Kim the Korean-American chef who stunned her Minnesota customers by putting kimchi on her pizzas or Franco Pepe who become estranged from his family with his mission to break new boundaries with his pizza. And Gabriele Bonci, who was christened the Michelangelo of pizza. I haven’t yet discovered the David Hockney of pizza, though I do remember some unconventional toppings at Cave du Cochon, the wine bar on Walmgate, York, a spin off from the more upmarket Cochon Aveugle run by Josh Overington. He called them flatbreads, for the thin, sourdough crust given unique toppings like crème fraiche, smoked pancetta, potatoes and the soft brie-style Rollright cheese, Another had marinated mushrooms, pistachio pesto and preserved lemons. They raised the bar for pizza or flatbread if you prefer, and they were fabulous.

Josh Overington took over Cochon Aveugle, Michael O’Hare’s tiny French bistro in 2014, while the maverick chef went on to ever greater celebrity in Leeds. He chucked out the frilly knickers (yes really) that stood in for décor in those days, and with his wife Victoria front of house, brought in a six-course menu with French leanings that soon caught the eye of Michelin and the Good Food Guide. By 2021, with Covid behind him, a new baby at home, and a better work/life balance, he was on a roll doing his best cooking yet. Then suddenly, at the start of this year, he announced he was closing both Cochon Aveugle and Cave du Cochon, for good.

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It was disappointing to lose two excellent establishments, but that seems to be the way of things just now. The good news is that the Cave has been snapped up by two former Cochon staff: Lui and Steph Wright. Lui had been sous chef at Cochon and Steph the restaurant manager. After a bit of a refurb. it has become the Wright Place.

Ham hock terrine.Ham hock terrine.
Ham hock terrine.

They’ve added a few more tables but otherwise it looks and feels much as before; still the same wooden floor, the rough old tables and what must be the most uncomfortable seat in York, in the prime window spot.

Besides wine and pizza in the evening, the Wright’s have added a morning bakery with good coffee and on my visit a flaky cinnamon croissant. I took home one of their big, beautiful, dark-crusted sourdough loaves, the crust so gorgeously crisp it needed a good sharp knife to slice through it to the soft, damp, tangy dough inside.

I was back soon after to find an evening menu that is almost a straight lift from Cave du Cochon: olives, marinated anchovies, a charcuterie platter and a cheese platter.

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Understandably there was no sign of my favourite boudin noir macaron which had become an Overington signature and presumably will turn up wherever he settles next.

The Wright Place, Walmgate, York.
Bread and butter. Photographed by Jonathan Gawthorpe.The Wright Place, Walmgate, York.
Bread and butter. Photographed by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
The Wright Place, Walmgate, York. Bread and butter. Photographed by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

I urged my pals to sample the bread with cultured butter and we tested a couple of Lindisfarne oysters with vin jaune granita, all very good.

The burrata and salad was off, a shame, given the menu is quite short. Instead we ordered ham hock terrine, loosely constructed with chunky pieces of slow-cooked ham, served warm with some sharp piccalilli. It was excellent.

The pizzas do not explore the wilder shores of pizza toppings that Overington created, nor his thin crust, but they have retained the tomato, mozzarella and nudja topping, the spicy nudja playing beautifully with a touch of warm honey. Others are their own, a goat’s cheese, wild mushroom and garlic pizza and an anchovy, caper and olive with a rather generous shower of rocket.

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The base, they say, has been fermented for 24 hours. It is delightfully chewy, though given the smallish size and the smallish topping, there is a lot of dough and plenty of uneaten crusts go back to the kitchen.

There are dips; tomato or garlic, I presume to finish off the spare bits of crust, but when pizzas are between £10 and £15 each, and dips £1.50 a pop, I don’t really think I should have to.

And the wine? The list is confusing. There are some unusual blends from what appear to be boutique wineries and we are encouraged to drink by the glass for variety, but there is little information about the wine, no indication of glass size and bottles seem to appear randomly among the list of glasses.

We are guided to a Tempranillo with the ham hock terrine, decently priced at £6.25, then a fresh and floral organic English Davenport from the Horsmondan vineyard in Kent at £11 a glass and a bright, fresh Grüner Veltliner at £12. But we’re getting through the 125ml glasses rather quickly so it makes more sense to buy a bottle.

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Prices begin benignly enough at £25 for a white and a red, but then rise steeply and quickly into the forties and fifties and well beyond. Our Davenport comes in at a punchy £43. We are racking up a restaurant sized bill for a brand that is ‘pizza and wine’.

It’s good news that a young, enthusiastic couple has taken over this much-loved wine bar, but I’d appreciate a broader menu and more judiciously priced wines in various glass sizes to better suit the casual vibe.

I appreciate it’s early days and that they are still working within the footprint of the former owners but I trust, given time and endeavour, they will make it their own.

The Wright Place 19 Walmgate, York YO1 9TX

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