Dean Court Hotel, York – Restaurant Review
By Roger Crow
I’m never sure whether prawn cocktail is ’in’ this year in a retro chic way, or whether the culinary powers that be have declared it more dated than disco… for the umpteenth time. All I know is it takes me back to my 1970’s childhood and I will always be a fan – if done right.
I take my first mouth full at the Dean Court Hotel in the shadow of York Minster, and am stopped in my tracks. All the usual accoutrements are there: brown buttered bread; shredded iceberg lettuce, served in a glass, but the Bloody Mary Marie Rose sauce catches me off guard. Like a dubbed spaghetti Western, the culinary dialogue doesn’t sync with what my taste buds think a prawn cocktail should be. I take another mouthful and the flavour catches up with my brain. It’s neither bad or ugly. Just different. I like it, a fine twist on an old classic.
There’s a new chef at DCH who’s keen to impress, and for the most part his work is a success. Alas, my wife’s beetroot cured sea trout starter is a curio: the fish doesn’t taste of anything. In the novel which inspired 2001: A Space Odyssey, ETs created a facsimile of human food as they’d seen pictures, but couldn’t replicate the taste. I imagine this is what it tastes like. It’s not bad, just strangely taste-free.
“Happy juggling the flavours”
I order a glass of house red, and hope the volume is over 13 per cent. (Though 12.5 is good at a push, 13 and above is always my volume of choice). Thankfully the 2015 Tempranillo is 13.5 per cent, full bodied and warming on a chilly winter’s night. We don’t have long to wait for the mains, which are terrific.
I devour and savour the baked monkfish, a meaty, succulent portion wrapped in treacle cured bacon. Though a little fatty (I prefer crispy, Canadian style), it works well, while the confit garlic parmentier potatoes are a treat. The leeks with shellfish butter are equally splendid, enhancing the well balanced dish.
Though some might prefer a crisp white wine with fish, I’m more than happy juggling the flavours. They complement one another perfectly. Okay, wine experts may be choking over their Cab Sav at this point, but each to their own.
“A ribbon of blood orange jelly punctuated with semi colons of ganache”
My wife’s wild mushroom and truffle risotto with Italian hard cheese crisps is also a joy. I resist my usual pun about being a ’fun guy’ for fear of a Paddington hard stare. The portions are excellent; not so large that you’re feeling like Mr Creosote by the end of the main, and perfect for those watching their weight (aka everyone) after the excesses of Christmas.
Should you be willing to throw caution to the wind, the chocolate amaretto sponge fondant is worth the average 15 minute prep time. Crunchy nuts and delicious warm choc filling, combined with a light sponge tick that comfort food box. I prefer it to my choice, Roast Hazelnut Mousse. It’s wrapped in a ribbon of blood orange jelly punctuated with commas and semi colons of ganache, and an exclamation mark of quality dark chocolate. My culinary co-pilot hits the nail on the head by calling it ’a deconstructed Jaffa Cake’.
“Get a window seat and watch the world go by”
I decide a full stop is called for half way through, though my spouse prefers the jelly to the mousse while I’m the polar opposite. Gery and Linda, the hyper attentive waiting staff, ensure we have everything we need, while the décor and ambience is appealing without being overpowering.
For those passing the hotel, there may be a feeling the restaurant is just for guests. Safe to say it’s open to all, and is well worth a look, especially if you can get a window seat and watch the world go by.
Dean Court Hotel, Duncombe Place, York, YO1 7EF
0844 387 6040
Open every day from 12 noon to 3pm and 6pm to 9.30pm. Dinner is from 6pm.