Natural, Relaxed Dining Space
We were pleased to be invited to enjoy Sunday lunch at York restaurant The Refectory this weekend.
Situated next to York train station, the Refectory Kitchen & Terrace is part of the Royal York Hotel which dates back to 1878. It was designed by award-winning architects Michaelis Boyd, whose previous work includes London’s Groucho Club and Soho House Group.
It’s a stunning addition to the area. The glass roof lets sunlight stream in and warm the room and even on a grey and overcast day the smallest rays of sun were amplified beautifully.
The walls are brick and stone – I believe originally the outer walls of the hotel – which have now become a fitting backdrop to this sleek but relaxed dining experience.
Black and white pictures of animals and nature line the walls amongst pockets of potted plants, hanging ivy and other treasures.
Wooden floors, tables and leather seats finish the room off nicely.
We went along to sample the Sunday lunch and there was a whole mix of people in there – older to younger and a fair few families.
A musician sang some classic tunes next door in the bar and provided a nice back drop to the meal.
Seasonal, Natural & Local
The Refectory offers a small but well thought out Sunday lunch menu of 2 courses for £19.95 and 3 courses for £23.95.
We skipped the starter but on offer was a broccoli soup, calamari, beetroot salad, ham hock or smoked salmon. All the starters we saw coming out of the kitchen looked appetising and it was nice to see a few more unusual options for a Sunday lunch set menu.
For main we enjoyed the vegetarian option of Roast cauliflower & Harrogate Blue barley risotto which was creamy and rich whilst still tasting fresh and wholesome. We thought there could have been a few more veg – the few bits or golden cauliflower on top were delicious but few and far between. Actually the portion was very small overall but this left plenty of room for dessert which isn’t always a bad thing.
We also tried the Chef’s Special – Pork loin with chorizo crushed new potatoes and wilted cabbage with garlic and butter. The pork was OK – a bit dry as pork so often is but it had been coloured really nicely for a nice flavour on the outside. The accompaniments were delicious and full of flavour. I particularly enjoyed the potatoes with chorizo that had been carefully diced into small cubes – nothing worse than chewing on large chunks of chorizo.
At first I was left a bit disappointed at the sparse amount of cabbage alongside my huge pork loin but then we were also bought a side of broccoli and cauliflower cheese to accompany the meal. This was delicious with the vegetables still maintaining some bite. As a vegetable lover I thought it was great to be given extra vegetables rather than be overloaded with potatoes.
As someone who isn’t really a fan of the traditional meat roast for Sunday lunch we liked the choices on offer which included the traditional beef roast and trimmings, risotto, pork, burger or fishcake.
Star of the Show
The mains were nice but it was the puddings where the magic really was in my opinion – but then I do have a very sweet tooth.
We enjoyed a “Pink Lady” – apple and raspberries in jelly with shortbread, white chocolate and popcorn. This was fantastic! It was so nice to be offered something different and interesting for a Sunday lunch dessert rather than the usual hot pies and crumbles. Fresh and tangy jelly was balanced against the sweet white chocolate whilst the popcorn and shortbread provided a pleasing texture.
The apple in the jelly had managed to keep a slight bite and small bits of dried raspberries in the popcorn was a really clever touch that gave a bit of extra zing amongst the sweetness.
As a chocolate lover I couldn’t leave without trying the chocolate tart which was rich, dark and decadent. Again, a lovely little extra touch was the crumbled honeycomb which kept you wanting more and lightened the whole thing nicely.
This was an enjoyable meal and I never doubted the quality of the ingredients. There was some interesting flavours and a few nice little touches that showed some real thought and skill. The service was excellent throughout and there was a large drinks menu.
The Sunday lunch menu is quite small so fussy eaters might want to check ahead. The portions are also on the small side – for me that’s great because it means I get to properly enjoy a dessert – but for some they may be left wanting a little more for the price.
I think it’s pushing the top end of what I’d want to pay, but the setting and service definitely help make it feel worthwhile. For a Sunday lunch there are other places in York that follow the same approach of seasonal and fresh, such as Walmgate Bistro who offer a 3 course menu with more choice for less.
But then again variety is the spice of life and The Refectory will definitely be kept in mind for future visits with family and friends. Especially if I want to impress them with a “Pink Lady” 🙂