The food has gone up a notch at Hudson’s after a £15m revamp of Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel, but diners deserve a better welcome, writes Elaine Lemm.
Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel, The Grand, has recently become even grander with a £15m overhaul. Central to this substantial renovation was the repositioning of Hudson’s, the fine-dining element here. The restaurant is in a new location and comes with a severe scaling back on numbers from 60 seats to 28, allegedly for head chef Craig Atchinson to focus in on the food. The restaurant already has three AA rosettes so I can only presume they are chasing the elusive Michelin Star.
The former historic headquarters of GNER is one of the most impressive buildings in York. With such a magnificent structure and tasteful refurbishment, it is not a fluke the Grand received five stars, though on the night of my visit I did slightly wonder why. Last time I was here there was a cheerful doorman – I think he had a top hat, but a hat or not, he was nowhere to be seen this time. In fact, there was no-one so I’m glad I didn’t have suitcases. A query at reception as to the whereabouts of the new Hudson’s was reasonably pleasant but to the point and left me feeling I was interrupting something more important.
Hudson’s is at the end of a very long corridor and en route we passed by a buzzing bar and peeked into the busy terrace restaurant. I wondered if we were heading to the wrong party as, at this point in the evening, only one other couple was dining in Hudson’s.
A lovely warm greeting from waitress Ellie took care of any dilemma as we continued to debate whether we should just head to the bar for a drink as the deathly quiet of this room was not cutting it, and neither was our table. Placed on its own, and oddly in front of the empty fireplace, we felt out on a limb. I may not have cared for the position of our table, but there was little else to not like about the layout and quietly confident decor with its parquet floor, panelling and lovely, understated furnishings.
Eventually, more diners arrived, and the rhythm of service kicked in and with just restaurant manager Antonio De Angelis, Ellie and another great waitress, Irita, they had proceedings beautifully organised. Each dish was delivered expertly with food descriptions in perfect detail (some longer than it took to eat the food) and Antonio bringing, pouring and describing the wine. Each glass was so well matched, whoever is responsible for the choice should be applauded; it is not often we come away with a such a serious list of wines to hunt down.
Neither did the kitchen disappoint; the cooking here is exceptional. Stepping back in numbers has worked in giving the time to prepare, cook and serve stunningly beautiful plates of almost perfect food. The courses are on the small side and, unlike many other tasting menus, do not increase as the meal progresses; perfect for me but someone across the way had a little grumble about it.
There were three stars of the nine courses, but seriously, these were hard to separate out as the standard was so high. My top vote went to tender venison with beetroot, violet mustard, chicory and hedgerow berries. It was beautiful to look at but even better was the delicate balance of textures and the astute, bold flavours that worked together so, so well.
But fighting for top dog also was a piece of flawlessly cooked North Atlantic stone bass, langoustine, fennel and buckwheat; my mouth waters just thinking about this dish. Or, a Tunworth cheese, with brassicas, wild mushrooms, a thumping waft of truffles and preserved roots which came close to it.
But, it is not just cooking that makes a great restaurant, and when it is within a hotel there are other factors that can affect the overall impression. My niggle is, this dinner for two with just one flight of wines is just shy of £200. That is not cheap. The quality of the food from Craig and his brigade and the exceptional hard work from the front-of-house team warrant such a price, but the Grand with its accolade of five stars needs to pay a little more attention to visiting diners. York now has fabulous restaurants, and there is choice out there.
Hudson’s Restaurant, Grand Hotel, York YO1 6GD. 01904 898438, thegrandyork.co.uk. Open: Tues to Sat, 6.30- 9.30pm.