While on a break in one of the UK’s most beautiful cities Peter Morrell and his wife discover this world class restaurant
The talented British husband and wife team Adam and Lovaine Humphrey started Arras in Australia way back in 2007. After enjoying great success down under they decided about 3 or 4 years ago to bring their combined culinary talents back to the UK and started Arras in York. Australia’s loss was our gain.
The restaurant is located in building called the Old Coach House. If you imagine that it’s all chintz curtains, copper pots and tasselled wall lamps forget it. The décor is utterly stunning. A large bright dual level dining space with a large atrium ceiling is the setting for series of wall murals painted by Leeds artist Nicolas Dixon. They reminded me of the mosaics at Tottenham Court Road station created by the father of pop art Eduardo Paolozzi.
There is also a terrace available in summer for al fresco dining.
Matching the quality of the art every detail in the restaurant is just right, very comfortable fabric chairs, stylish crockery and cutlery, and rimless Reidel glasses which maximise the flavour of wine.
The food matches the surroundings and reading the menu is a real culinary adventure. As we decided what dishes to have we were treated to some intriguing amuse bouches. There was a crunchy cannoli like tube filled with ricotta, marinated sardines and potato and crispy onion with red pepper and tomato served in a small cast iron pot. All three were outstanding.
A notable addition for the table was the freshly baked sourdough bread which was first rate and very moreish.
For our starters my wife had the artichoke custard and onion tart and my choice was the nicoise style red mullet and octopus.
My wife’s dish was a work of art on a plate. The topping was beautifully decorated with mini-flowers, it was served with a carrot puree and smoked artichoke salad. The flavours were all subtle and well judged and she thoroughly enjoyed it.
My red mullet and octopus came with squid ink potatoes and a spiced tomato broth. It was a unique and very satisfying dish. The fish and octopus had bags of taste, the spiced broth gave it an extra lift and the potatoes added another interesting dimension.
Our mains had been difficult to choose, both the hake and the venison were tempting but our final selection was halibut for my wife and I had pigeon.
Again the dishes were attractively presented and full of complexity. Halibut is always very delicate and this was no exception, it was complemented with fennel jam, caramelised cabbage puree and cockles in a Gewurztraminer sauce which added to the fish’s aromatic character. A lovely dish.
My pigeon with pressed beetroot, glazed salsify, truffle and macadamia nuts had a lot of punch. The pigeon was cooked pink which made it very juicy and tender. I liked the slightly oyster flavour of the salsify and the beetroot which gave it extra intensity. Very good food indeed.
There is an extensive, well curated wine list of 200 bin. There are very good examples across a range of grape types and styles drawn from both the old and new worlds. Our wine pairing for the evening was Saras, an aromatic white albariño from Galicia in Spain. The wine had strong floral aromas in the bouquet with notes of citrus. On the palate the citrus remained and was joined by tropical fruit flavours. It had good acidity which worked well with the food and the finish was bright and lively.
We had eaten a feast and dessert was beyond us but for those with a sweet tooth there was an indulgent array of puddings. Examples were Michele Ferraro – a homage, it’s centric around hazelnuts and served with a frangelico sauce. The liquorice allsorts was a tempting collection of goodies which featured liquorice parfait, coconut sorbet and other delights. For those with a more savoury taste there’s an impressive selection of British cheeses.
This is probably one of the best dining experiences my wife and I have had for a very long time. The service was perfect, the dining space and its décor was an entertainment in its own right and the food, a clever combination of tastes, flavours, aromas and texture, was of the highest order.
Lunch at Arras is £22/£27 for 2/3 courses and dinner £38/£49 for 2/3 courses excluding drinks and service.
A final word about the location of Arras in York. The city is a must visit for a short break, it’s about a two hour train ride from London. There is a wealth of Roman, Viking, medieval are recent history to see. These include York Minster, the Jorvik experience, the quaint street called the Shambles and the National Railway Museum. Arras is a stroll from all these and many more attractions, It’s the ideal spot to relax and enjoy superb food after a busy days sightseeing.
The Old Coach House, Peasholme Green, York YO1 7PW
Call: +44 (0)1904 633 737 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org