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Three nights in York, with a 6 year old

We'll be staying in York for 3 nights - in the old part of town, if that helps at all (sorry, I can get better details if that isn't helpful enough). We're looking for places with good food that aren't stuffy. Upscale pubs would be wonderful. My husband and daughter eat pretty much everything, while I try to stay away from red meat. She's used to dining out so it can be a nice place, I just don't want it to feel stuffy and stiff. I have a 2 or 3 year old edition of the green guide which I'll look at, but thought I'd ask here first to see if there are some obvious choices I should book in advance.

thanks very much in advance.

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  1. Melton's Too is the obvious city centre bet. The more bistro-y version of Meltons (long regarded as the city's best).

    Akbar's is a Yorkshire based mini-chain of Indian restaurants of particularly high quality and there's one in the city. The one near to me in the North West is one of my top five (or so) Indians in the country. Thoroughly recommended if you're interested in that cuisine. In similar mini-chain theme, there is the universally well thought of Red Chilli (Sichuan), which has 5 branches across the north.

    I've also heard good things about the Blue Bicycle - but have no personal experience.

    You might also want to consider Betty's for lunch or, preferably, a "proper" afternoon tea. A Yorkshire institution - and there's two branches in York

    17 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      I'll second Betty's for a fun afternoon tea. I was taken there years ago and marvelled at the waitresses in their black uniforms (I hope they still wear them) and the idea of experiencing one of my first 'teas.'

      1. re: zuriga1

        I would definitely look into the Swiss side of the menu at Betty's. The potato rosti is excellent. But that shouldn't be a surprise as the original owners were Swiss.

      2. re: Harters

        OK, this is going to sound ridiculously, horribly American but ... would they do a tea with decaffeinated tea? I don't drink caffeine and I don't really like the idea of a 6 year old having it either. If they will, it sounds absolutely perfect.

        Many, many thanks for the other ideas. Is Red Chilli a place that was in that Gordon Ramsey competition?

        1. re: LulusMom

          Here's the link to Betty's: http://www.bettys.co.uk/menus.aspx

          And, no, Red Chilli hasnt been on Ramsey. There was Chinese place from Manchester on his "best restaurant" - generally regarded in the area as not very good but they market themsleves very well which, I'm sure, is how they managed to get sufficient "votes" to get on the programme.

          1. re: Harters

            Thanks for the info, and I'm glad to hear it wasn't the same place (Red Chilli). It looked like the food was dull and sort of blanded out for the non-Chinese customers. I'll check on the Betty's link. I'd really love to try it.

            1. re: LulusMom

              Red Chilli is definitely not 'blanded out'. It is predominantly Sichuan and their 'lamb boiled in water' could fell a water buffalo.

              1. re: mr_gimlet

                Oh, indeed. The poached lamb is the dish that always gets mentioned. It's a killer dish and, truth be told, too hot for my tastes. However, the minced pork and green beans is a superb dish. Hot, yes, but not to excess. Superb. I also like a particular non-hot dish of pork belly with preserved cabbage. I've never been sure if this is a Sichuan dish or something put on the menu to satisy the Cantonese followers.

                1. re: Harters

                  I *like* heat to excess, to be honest. And since I do, and do most of the cooking for our family, I've trained them to like it too (nice work, huh?). So I will put this on my list.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Anything with preserved vegetables probably originated in the western part of China, particularly Sichuan or Hunan. Sichuan was one of the first sources of salt in the world, and so vegetables were preserved in salt and exported around China. Your dish of minced pork with green beans typically starts with a frying of finely chopped preserved vegetables with the pork.

                    1. re: mr_gimlet

                      Unfortunately I don't eat pork, so whenever I make the F. Dunlops sichuan green beans I make the version without pork. Wonder if the restaurant would do the same.

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Maybe, though your request might not make it all the way through to the chef. Lots of other yummy things on their menu, maybe a fish-fragrant eggplant instead of beans?

                        1. re: mr_gimlet

                          My experience with the Manchester Red Chilli is that command of English does not feature in the person spec. when recruiting front of house staff. If it was me, I wouldnt risk things being lost in translation.

              2. re: Harters

                Betty's looks so good. I've emailed them about the possibility of decaf tea. My guess is that they'll scoff, but worth a shot.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  I'd be very surprised if they didn't serve decaf tea, to be honest.

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    I'm so happy to hear that; they haven't responded yet, so I was guessing they were thinking I was ridiculous. I am looking for regular flavored decaf, not herbal.

              3. re: LulusMom

                I don't have a lot of caffeine these days and find that one can almost always get a cup of herbal something at most restaurants in England. Your 6 year old would probably enjoy a nice, sweet peppermint tea of something fruity. I can always get a decaf capuccino, too.

                1. re: zuriga1

                  Thanks zuriga. I'm in the weird position of not dealing well with caffeine and also not liking herbal tea. I'm guessing they wouldn't be happy with me bringing in a few decaf tea bags. Or maybe we could go the hot chocolate route. I'll check the website. I really appreciate all the help on this.

            2. Hi LM,

              I thought I had posted about my 3 days in Yorkshire in March 2011 but can't find it in a search of the board. Luckily I saved the document, so here it is, hope it helps:

              Having just spent 3 days in York, I thought I would report on our dining experiences. We ate very well.

              First, lunch at the General Tarleton in Ferrensby, a lovely dining pub with interesting food. We started with a ewe’s cheese soufflé and a salad of wood pigeon with smoked beets, blue cheese fritters and hazelnuts. Excellent. Main courses were a Taste of Rabbit (roast loin and best end, herb stuffed leg wrapped in bacon, mini rabbit pie, celeriac puree, girolles, broad beans and truffle jus) and Yorkshire Rare Breed Pork (crisp slowly braised belly, roast fillet, GT's black pudding, mock goose pie, plum puree and cider glaze). These were very impressive and very generous portions.

              We had afternoon tea at Betty’s in York. Great pastries.

              Dinner that night was at the Ivy in York. As I posted above, we had been there some years ago, but not since it had changed from an upper-tier restaurant to a more casual brasserie. Apparently there have been several chef changes, but the current chef is doing some really interesting and impressive dishes, with clever and quirky presentations. We had mackerel, chicken wings with corn and popcorn, sea bream, duck breast a l’orange, and a pineapple tarte tatin . I didn’t keep detailed descriptions, but everything was delicious.
              The next day we took a driving tour of the dales, and stopped for lunch at the Grassington House in Grassington. This was quite exceptional. I had tempura prawns to start, can’t remember the other starter, main courses were pork loin with black pudding and cabbage (the chef raises his own pigs) and roast Goosnargh chicken. This is very serious food and beautifully presented.

              Next dinner was at J. Baker’s. We had a salad with white asparagus, venison tartare with smoked chili jelly, turbot filet and roasted duck breast with piquillo pepper, anchovy and olive. For dessert, rice pudding with blood orange, prune and coconut milk, and sticky date pudding with burnt banana ice cream and banana butterscotch. The dishes were more creative than the menu descriptions would make them appear.

              Next day we drove to Whitby, where we had lunch at the Magpie. Thanks to June for the recommendation. The only unsuccessful dish was a crab cake special, which was really just potato (maybe someone waved a crab over it), not at all what one normally expects a crab cake to be. The crab parcels (smoked salmon wrapped around crab) were generous and delicious. Main courses of dover sole and haddock with leeks and prawns were excellent, and served with huge portions of chips, salad and assorted vegetables. So on the whole this was a very fine meal.

              The last dinner in York was at Melton’s. Again, very creative and delicious food, nice ambience and great service. We started with smoked haddock with caponata, and chorizo with chili and chocolate. Main courses were chicken with mushrooms, shallots, apples and black pudding, and pork 3 ways, confit, braised and fried, with cabbage and potato gratin. For dessert we shared a prune and brandy soufflé, which was extraordinary. Bottled water and coffee are included with dinner, a very nice touch.

              All of these restaurants offered exceptional value for the quality of food and service offered. I had originally planned to stay outside of York, but found that staying in central York was perfect, not only easy to get into and out of with a car, with easy parking (the Travelodge we stayed at had a discount deal with a nearby parking garage, 2 GBP from 5 pm to 10 am), but we were also able to walk to all our dinners.

              1 Reply
              1. re: rrems

                Aha! rrems, I really *am* following you around the world (and, by the way, we absolutely loved one of the places you recommended in Toulouse - the one just south, I think it is, of the main square near the carousel - really great - thanks). I appreciate your review, and am sure we'll find some place wonderful in it.

              2. LM

                You may be interested in this extensive York thread froma little while back:
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/706707

                14 Replies
                1. re: Harters

                  Aren't you wonderful Harters - thank you so much for the link, and for the tip on lack of English at Red Chilli.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    Such a pleasure to hear of an American tourist actually getting out of London and seeing our country as most of us see it.

                    1. re: Harters

                      We love seeing the rest of the country. The UK is beautiful and charming. We've done south Wales, some of Scotland (my husband's family is from there), the Cotswolds, and Kent so far. This time around, a couple of days in London and then York. My husband is biking from Cornwall up to the tip of Scotland, and we're meeting him in York. Now HE is really seeing the rest of your country!

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Wow, now that is some trip he's doing.

                        Much as I love my native north west, I have a very soft spot for Kent. It's the only other part of the country I could see living in.

                        1. re: Harters

                          I absolutely loved Kent. The gardens, the people, the weather, the houses - it was my favorite so far. I especially loved Rye.

                        2. re: LulusMom

                          Will you have a car? You might want to consider renting one, even for a day, to be able to drive out of York and see some of the beautiful scenery, particularly the dales. As you can see from my posts, there is some fabulous food out there too.

                          Oh, and did you catch my London report from last year? If not I'll see if I can locate it.

                          1. re: rrems

                            No car this time. We make it over fairly regularly (my husband does some work with a University there), and since we'll only be there for a few days, we will probably stick to York. I'd love to do the dales and the lake district sometime.

                            For London, Lulu and I have two nights. First we'll go to the new Ottolenghi owned place, and second to Great Queen Street, where we've had a very good meal before (and it is so comfortable with a kid). We will, however, have a couple of nights when we're staying near Heathrow (a side trip to Cyprus is part of this as well), so if anyone has any suggestions about places near the airport, I'm all ears (or maybe I should type eyes).

                            1. re: LulusMom

                              You may find this helpful for Cyprus (and certainly more so than Chowhound)

                              http://www.cyprus-eating.com/

                              Most of the reviews will be around Paphos as it jjust used to deal with that area. And you might come across some reviews from a name you recognise :-

                              )

                              http://www.cyprus-eating.com/my-revie...

                              1. re: Harters

                                Harters, you are a font of information. Thank you so much.

                              2. re: LulusMom

                                There was a question not long ago about eating near Heathrow (vs in London). The consensus usually is that there are few good spots near LHR. The closest good food I know of is in Windsor or Bray, but I don't know what the cab ride would cost.

                                On a side note, I tried to look at your blog, but the link in your profile wouldn't work when I pasted it in. :-( I see you're from Chapel Hill. My kids go there often to visit their father.

                                1. re: zuriga1

                                  Ah, no blog, actually, just a web address.

                                  Shame about Heathrow and the food situation. I was considering trying to cab to River Cafe one of the nights; my husband thinks this is insane. Anyone disagree with him?

                                  wow, a Chapel Hill connection?? How old are your kids? Does your husband teach at UNC? Do you ever make it this way (if so, let me buy you a drink next time you're in town!)?

                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                    My opinion, FWIW, is that if you can afford the cab - go for it! At my age, I don't worry too much unless something is outrageous. I'm not going to take my $$ or ££ with me. It's not the distances in London that are the problem, it's the bad traffic. The Tube isn't too bad an alternative.

                                    My kids are probably a bit older than you. The ex works for a big insurance company - he's a retired M.D. You will be in London a lot sooner than I'll be invited to NC. :-)

                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                      Exactly my take on River Cafe ... why not take the opportunity when we have it? And given that Lulu has helped cook from a couple of the River Cafe books, I think she'd be excited to try it. So are we talking 30 minutes from Heathrow, or what, would you estimate?

                                      I am one of those (for me lucky) women who got pregnant at an "advanced age" as they try to politely put it in obgyn circles. So I may well be as old as, if not older than, your kids. But I hear you on your invite to NC (and am laughing). Drink offer stands - as it does to anyone else who's helped me over the years.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        According to Google maps, the journey is only about 16 miles. Now you know what that would take back 'there,' but over here that can be an hour in the London traffic, depending on time of day. I'd certainly try to do it, especially if Lulu associates the name with things she has cooked. I'd come drive you myself but I don't drive in England!

                                        It could well be you can find some sort of tour from York and get to see some of that beautiful (and large) county.

                    2. We're back from our trip, and I wanted to thank you all for all the information and help. We had our first meal there at Betty's - a big blow out tea (complete with decaf for me, along with some champagne). It was delightful. We had Melton's Too on our list but somehow didn't make it there. We did find a great little place called Mason's. Nothing fancy, but sort of chic casual with a small menu and very good food. As good as a portobello burger with melted brie can be, mine was. And the mezze plate we all shared to start was very good. Completely untouristy, which was kind of nice. The next night was the Mason's Arms - the town was packed because the Olympic Torch was coming through, and we'd read they do a good fish and chips (true). My husband also raved about the rabbit pie he got.

                      In London we did eat at Great Queen Street, which was good but not as ravishingly so as it had been 2 years ago. And we had dinner with one of your own (hope she doesn't mind me mentioning it) at Nopi. Lulu, greedygirl and I had a full out girl party and ordered quite a bit. The only thing I can remember (um, there was lots of wine and lots of conversation) thinking wasn't totally wonderful was a fritter of some kind - maybe with broad beans and mint? We probably did about 10 small plates between us. The duck was a stand out, as were the stuffed zucchini (oops, courgette?) flowers. Two desserts, also very good. I will not soon forget the picture of greedygirl and Lulu walking hand in hand in Soho afterwards on a busy Friday night.