Star Inn the City: How York restaurant rose from the ashes after devastating fire

Star Inn the City, York
Star Inn the City, York
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The fire at York’s Star Inn the City in November was initially predicted to cause only minor disruption to business, but turned into an almost four-month closure.

The shutdown happened during the busiest period of the year and led to Christmas party bookings being re-arranged and staff redeployed elsewhere - chef Andrew Pern also runs the Star Inn at Harome.

Star Inn the City has recently re-opened after a kitchen fire last November

Star Inn the City has recently re-opened after a kitchen fire last November

It re-opened in early March with several changes apparent.

The fire began in the kitchen, which has been completely renovated, but the decor and layout of the dining room has remained the same and some staff have been retained.

A new menu

Gone is the unwieldy A2-sized list for a pared-down offer of five starters, mains and specials. The grill section, pub classics, a kids’ medley, sides and puds are there too. So, still a substantial offer but nothing compared to pre-fire.

Top chef Andrew Pern runs the restaurant

Top chef Andrew Pern runs the restaurant

I took great comfort and excitement in the familiarity of an Andrew Pern menu, though one absentee in this new incarnation was the controversial “Flat Caps” bread baskets. All that remains in their place is a plate and a butter knife, not that I saw or was offered any bread and oddly it is not on the menu either.

What we ate

Provenance still leads here in the hallmark Pern unshowy way, and as always he truly gets what people want to eat while maintaining his talented creative edge. Risotto loses rice replaced by sweet potato and becomes a Nosotto. The Nosotto is an exceptionally brilliant dish with seasonal wild garlic, a dash of pesto, smoked Hawes Wensleydale and a crunch of roasted hazelnuts (£9) though I add only the second time around as the first was a tad tepid.

Dressed Whitby crab always reminds me of my granny with her brown bread and vinegar alongside and can be so easily – dare I say – boring in the wrong hands. Not here. This one sits squeakily fresh on a bed of smoked salmon mousse, pickled cucumber, coastal herbs and croutons (£14) in a super-stylish twin-walled glass. Nice touch, Andrew.

A main course of foraged mushroom and lovage tagliatelle, buttered Cavolo Nero , young leeks and Mrs Bell's ewe's milk curd

A main course of foraged mushroom and lovage tagliatelle, buttered Cavolo Nero , young leeks and Mrs Bell's ewe's milk curd

The shining star of the evening was a foraged mushroom and deliciously slightly chewy strands of lovage tagliatelle (£15) with buttered Tuscan cabbage, young leeks and Mrs Bell’s ewes milk curd. This dish had me jumping up and down with its brilliance even if it did outface me in the portion size, so was quickly put right across the table, who also loved it.

Unhappily, there was a spectacular crash in a special of rose veal schnitzel with a soggy, fat-soaked coating; any rescue of this one was impossible, though hats off to operations manager Rhys’s springing into action to remedy this blip.

A nice touch

Having polished off my pasta, my companion had no need or desire for a replacement dish but did enjoy his caramelised banana tart (£8) and smiled at the chefs having scribbled “Sorry” in chocolate on the side of the plate.

Rising from the ashes

It is heartening to see how customers at Star Inn the City have rallied in support of this much-loved eatery – the night of our visit the place was packed and many restaurateurs can only dream of the numbers they were expecting on Mother’s Day. Stuff can happen in a restaurant as it did this time around, it shouldn’t but it does, and here they have had more than their fair share of bad luck and done so well to get everything back on track so quickly.

Here was a dinner of two halves, rising to dizzy heights then slumping well below par but it does not worry me. All that’s needed is a little more training of the newer staff, and there’s the imminent arrival of chef Matt Lievers to oversee the kitchen.

This phoenix has well and truly risen from the ashes, and even those few faux-pas will not stop me going back.

The Star Inn the City, Lendal Engine House, Museum Street, York, YO1 7DR. Tel: 01904 619208. Open every day, 9am to 11.30am for breakfast, and noon until late for all-day menu and specials.