Struggling to pin down just one good place to eat in York? You’re not the only one. Our Claire helps out, as she discovers one of the historic city’s gems among the tables at Cafe No 8.
As well as the actual population of our county’s great capital, the rest of us like popping along to York for various reasons; shopping, Betty’s, drinking, a weekend away, sightseeing… Because this old place is beating heart of cosmopolitan life these days, it has naturally brought along with it plenty of foodie haunts among its cobbles, alleyways, back streets and high streets.
So, as always, its important for us to bring you news of really good places to eat that will ensure two things. 1) You won’t have to trudge around with aching feet for hours trying to choose a the best place of the many restaurants in York. 2) You won’t end up choosing the easy options that are shouting the loudest but leave you slightly disappointed, which you have to pay over the odds for the privilege for too.
This brings me to Cafe No 8. Its home is in Gillygate beneath the city walls, so ideal if you’re in the city centre, and easy to find parking if not. It’s unassuming from the outside, with the look of a bistro that is attractive, but still gives no indication of really how good the food is inside.
Well, let me tell you, it’s good. Really good. And with a set menu, you will also get a really reasonable deal. (Dinner: Two courses for £19 / Three for £23.)
You know those really great neighbourhood restaurants that have no frills, are independent and quirky, that can be found off the beaten track of the touristy cities of the world? This is one of those. You get the impression that people come here because they know it well, and they know it’s good every time. The dishes are inventive and original, sure. But they’re also incredibly simple, cosy and fresh, and deserve applause for dedication to local produce.
In 2009 The Guardian put Cafe No 8 in a list of York’s top 10 budget restaurants and cafes, and I am willing to bet that still stands today. It was so nice to see such a laid-back bistro so busy on a Wednesday evening, and it’s always refreshing when you can pop in somewhere that serves up excellent food for your ‘tea’, rather than the fanfare that comes with having to gear up for ‘dinner’ (southern meaning of the word). Who can be bothered with posh frocks and heels on a Wednesday night?
For starters we ordered Escrick hot-smoked salmon trifle with beetroot and horseradish; and baked artichoke with smoked Ribblesdale goats cheese, leeks and pine nuts, salsa verde. The course was packed with flavour and innovative, presented beautifully and ingredients that worked wonderfully together, and straight away we knew this was going to be a treat. The talent was there, and you know when you get a starter like that it means you’re in a place that will deliver with no-nonsense and no mistakes.
Mains consisted of beef rump pave steak, umami mushroom gratin, Yorkshire Blue cheese sauce; and game cottage pie of venison, rabbit and wild boar in red wine and jumiper gravy with creamed potatoes. While at first I wasn’t sure if any of the options on the menu cried out to me, I am so glad they didn’t, because my own main of the cottage pie wouldn’t have been my number one choice if one had. Lucky for me it was a good choice, with so many different flavours on the plate from a range of meat that was cooked perfectly.
Dessert had to be attempted, so with a final hurrah of cheeses and dark chocolate ginger terrine with poached pear and cardomom ice cream, it was the ideal end to a faultless meal.
While Cafe No 8 certainly seems to have no problem with its reputation among those in the know, now it’s time to tell the rest of Yorkshire and its visitors that this place is one stop-off in York that you should definitely schedule into your visit. After all, a good day out just wouldn’t be right without a well-priced and fantastic lunch or tea to add to the occasion, would it?