Just 24 hours after opening, the Star Inn the City had taken 5,000 bookings. Elaine Lemm sees whether it can deliver.
Lauded by many as the opening of the year in Yorkshire, The Star Inn the City in York has hit the ground running. This new venture from chef Andrew Pern with business partner Justin Brosenitz was always going to attract a lot of attention based simply on the reputation of The Star at Harome and Andrew’s outstanding talent in the kitchen. He is one of the best chefs in the county.
The Star Inn the City is, however, a different beast to Harome. A thatched country inn this is not.
The sensational renovation of the old engine house is in arguably one of the most desirable locations in York; smack bang next to the river (I am assured flood protection is in place) and tucked up to the Museum Gardens.
Cleverly, the older building seamlessly merges with the steel and glass pile housing the Garden Room, the main part of the new restaurant. There’s the cosy River Room for lighter food and a private dining room upstairs.
The overarching theme of the décor is a brasserie with a smattering of country-chic and a modernist touch. It is a slight mish-mash, but they get away with it. The Garden Room is divided into two by bench seating and an abundance of flora and fauna.
For those, like us, at the back this cuts off any view and during the evening, I hear several diners, as they arrive, requesting to sit on ‘the other side’ which is impossible, as it is packed out.
We were also seated near the door and close to the reception desk which acts as a hub for the staff, and their conversation is something of a distraction during dinner.
There was no diversion of attention when it came to the menu. This was one to savour with Pern magic woven all the way through it.
Over the years, I have watched many chefs attempt to replicate Andrew’s way of putting seemingly straightforward ingredients together in a dish and creating a sensation. None can do it as well as he. This menu here did not disappoint and frankly, I could have eaten every single dish on there.
The All Day Menu (from 11.30am–10.30pm) has a lot of doubling up of starters as mains, which widens an already splendid choice. A Market Menu is displayed on a blackboard, and as the father of several ‘Pernlets’ Andrew knows how to write a kids’ menu; the one here is wonderful, scaled-down grown-up food.
The wine list, on the other hand, is a seriously grown-up affair, yet not overpowering in any way with sufficient by the glass and a few interesting styles to try. I had a bone-dry white Picpoul de Pinet which, surprisingly, worked well right across my chosen menu.
Food decisions had to be made, and we kicked off with two dishes that did not disappoint. Barncliffe Brie came deep-fried with a clean crisp crumb.
It sat alongside a colourful array of heritage beetroot, a smattering of Pickering watercress and a crunch of hazelnut pesto.
A dish of thickly sliced, poached quince with tangy Mrs Bell’s Blue and candied walnuts left me wondering how anyone could have made a quince taste so good.
The eager young staff – nattily dressed in distinctively different uniforms to denote their rank; the tweed-waist coated are in command – waste little time in clearing and food comes just quickly enough without seeming rushed.
Deep-fried breaded Scarborough woof with marsh samphire, North Sea brown shrimps and ‘Yorkshire Caviar’ is a rather lovely poshed-up version of fish and chips.
The squeaky-fresh woof comes as lightly-fried goujons, draped in salty samphire with a smattering of tiny shrimps. The “Yorkshire Caviar” – mushy peas to you and I – brings the dish solidly back down to earth. A clever mix of styles. However, the butter-roast Yorkshire ‘Middle White’ suckling pig bathed in Ampleforth cider brandy juices and a hefty sultana sausage roll on the side never left the earth.
It is a substantial, robust dish bursting with flavours, textures and all-round scrumptiousness.
Puds are just as tempting and grounded. Dark chocolate orange tart with clementine curd and a ‘salad’ of blood orange is a seriously great piece of cooking.
A Spiced Apple ’n’ Lowna Dairy Curd Cheesecake has taken the classic, turned it upside down and popped it in a small Kilner jar.
This was perhaps the only dish where styling took over; again flavours and textures spot-on, just a little disjointed to eat.
The biggest surprise on the night, however, was yet to come. The price. Despite the irritating having to order sides separately and bread coming as an extra, our bill for three-courses for two, wines, and sides came in at just a whisper above £80.
That is seriously good value for food of this quality.
If the price and the quality of the offering here can be kept at these levels, then this has to be a sure-fire win for everyone – Andrew, Justin and diners alike.
The Star Inn The City, Lendal Engine House, Museum Street, York, YO1 7DR. 01904 619208, www.starinnthecity.co.uk.
Open all day, every day from 8am for breakfast, main menu starts 11.30am–10.30pm.