I’m a foodie traveller.
It’s one of the first things I look at once I’ve booked a trip somewhere: WHAT CAN I EAT.
I like to read guidebooks, research local specialties, bookmark restaurant suggestions from bloggers, and basically put together a battle plan, to make sure I don’t miss out on ANY foodie goodness.
I mean, I’ve literally already got a list as long as my arm of things I’d like to try in Japan, and we’re not even going until September!
But our York Adventure in January was different. I’ve visited the city several times before, so I was pretty laid back about things this time.
York is home to a huge host of excellent restaurants, cafes and pubs, serving everything from early breakfasts to 2am cones of roast potatoes. They’ve got a fantastic food market on weekends too, where I’ve previously bought fantastic local cheeses, flakey meat pies, and crumbly cookies with melty chocolate middles.
As we’d both already done a couple of the obvious foodie spots on previous trips (Betty’s fat rascal scones, and York Roast Co. sandwiches), we decided that this time, we’d just take things as they came.
I asked for dinner date suggestions on Instagram, so I could make reservations for Saturday night, but other than that: we just wandered around until we found something we fancied.
And it was great!
We managed to sniff out several really awesome meals, and came back to London feeling round and full and happy.
And if that’s not a sign of an excellent holiday, I don’t know what is!
Thirteen Thirty One
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and I LOVE it.
I was craving a proper breakfast on our first day in York, so we headed out in search of the epic eggs I’d seen Amanda try at Pig and Pastry. Unfortunately they were fully booked, so we went for a walk and discovered this place instead.
Thirteen Thirty One. It’s a cafe, bar, grill AND cinema, all rolled into one. Not exactly where you expect to find a good breakfast, but Gary and I are in total agreement: they serve the BEST full English we’ve ever had.
Creamy scrambled eggs for me, perfectly poached eggs for Gary, chunky pork sausages (grilled and sticky around the edges), chargrilled bacon (with proper char marks on it!), buttery mushrooms, hot beans, tinned tomatoes (fun fact: I really hate fried fresh tomato!), and proper doorstep slices of toast and butter.
Sure, the butter came pre-packed, the decor is basic, and they’re never going to win awards for presentation… but really when the food is THIS good, who even cares?
Several people had recommended Bistro No.8 for dinner, but our taxi driver and my friend Shvonne both said it was awesome for brunch as well, so I made a booking for Sunday morning.
We arrived to a friendly welcome from the staff, snagged a table by the window so we could see out on to the back garden, and ordered hot coffee and spicy Virgin Mary’s to start.
Gary went for the full English, which came served with bubble and squeak instead of toast. The verdict: nice, but not as good as Thirteen Thirty One.
However MY breakfast was an absolute winner: poached eggs, served with bubble and squeak, Hollandaise sauce, and AAAAALL the bacon. (Seriously, there was about 8 rashers of the stuff!)
The eggs were perfectly gooey, the bacon was crispy, and I loved the change of soft, fried mashed potato instead of toast. It’s not traditional in any sense, but it’s soooo good.
Their dinner menu also looks absolutely insane, so I’m desperate to try it next time we’re up North!
We popped into Cafe Harlequin for coffee and scones… and boy did we find them!
Harlequin is a teeny tiny doorway from the outside. But head up the stairs and you’ll find a surprisingly big and bright room, with high ceilings, decorative fireplaces, and plenty of chairs and tables to go around.
The coffees were huge and hot, a perfectly creamed latte for me, and a really good Americano for Gary. We also ordered a fruit scone each, which arrived fresh and warm from the oven. Sprinkled with sugar, and filled to bursting with juicy sultanas, they broke easily down the middle (just like a good scone should!) and were perfectly crumbly on the inside.
Spread with cool butter and local jam (strawberry for Gary, raspberry for me), they were total perfection and I inhaled mine in about 73 seconds. (After I finished instagramming them, obviously…)
You’ll find Harlequin right opposite the York’s Chocolate Story experience, on King’s Square, which offers people-watching opportunities to rival the scones!
We combined our trip to York with Gary’s birthday celebrations, so I wanted to treat him to a really nice dinner on the Saturday night.
I asked for restaurant ideas on Instagram and got SO many amazing suggestions. I’ve got a bunch of them written down on my list for our next visit, but in the end, for this trip, I made a reservation at Ambiente Tapas on Goodramgate.
Take note: I rang about midday, and we couldn’t get a table before 9:30pm. This place is POPULAR! (It worked out well for us though, as it gave us a chance to do the Ghost Tour!)
Ambiente serves Spanish tapas with a modern twist. We started with glasses of red wine, and a plate of warm toasted bread, topped with crushed tomato and garlic.
Then we decided to try their Intro to Tapas menu, which is an absolute BARGAIN at £27.50 between two people!
We got sticky fried chorizo and potatoes (Gary’s favourite), meatballs in an unusual chilli and lemongrass sauce, a pretty average seafood and chorizo paella, the most AMAZING mushrooms and shallots in tarragon sauce, fried calamari rings (my fave!), and a portion of patatas bravas (fried potatoes drizzled with aioli and spicy tomato sauce).
Our whole bill came to about £40 for both of us, including ALL our drinks, and we were absolutely stuffed by the end of it.
It’s an absolutely PERFECT date night restaurant!
Guy Fawkes Inn
We had a quick glance over their menu and noticed they had a Sunday roast option, so after we’d finished our sightseeing for the day, we headed straight there, in time to grab a late lunch before our train back to London.
The restaurant was fully booked until the evening, but we managed to grab a table in the bar area. It’s small and cosy, full of dark wood and quirky artwork. The side room had a fireplace, and I can imagine that in full Winter, it’s a cosy haven from the outside frost.
We both ordered their soup of the day to start: a home-made mushroom and tarragon. Served with a hunk of fresh bread for dipping, it was creamy and filling and delicious.
Then for mains, Gary chose the Guy Fawkes 8oz burger, topped with cheese and bacon, and served with crunchy onion rings and hand-cut chips. The burger was perfectly cooked, slightly pink and the middle and really juicy. The chips were crispy and not greasy, and overall: a pretty solid burger effort!
I decided to give the roast dinner a try, and received a HUGE portion of juicy pork loin, crackling, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, and sticky roasted parsnips. I also got a whole side dish of vegetables, including red cabbage, green beans, carrots, and mangetout (which I’ve finally learned how to pronounce correctly…). And not forgetting the gravy!
The roast potatoes were a big disappointment (not crispy or fluffy at all), but everything else was so good. I’m always a bit iffy about ordering pork loin at pubs, as I find they tend to overcook it so it goes tough and dry, but this was LOVELY. Tender, juicy, and topped with perfectly crunchy crackling. The gravy was also amazing. Meaty and savoury, full of flavour, and just the right consistency.
To finish, we ordered one last drink and a cheeseboard to share.
Then we undid our top buttons, leaned back into our seats, and sat chatting, watching the world go by, until it was time to pack up our bags and head to the station…
*My trip to York was paid for by Visit York.