Last year, York was crowned as the best gastro destination in the UK and the fifth best in Europe by Trip Advisor. On such a short trip we only had a chance to try out a limited number of places (even I have a limit to how much I can eat each day), but I can confirm that the truth really does live up to the reputation. Here are some of the places we went to, and also some that have been recommended by my secret spies.
If you have any favourite places for eating or drinking in York, make sure to let us know in the comments!
Chapter House Street, York YO1 7JH T
Gray’s Court is an imposing building right by York Minster, with a history dating back to 1080. The Court is possibly the oldest continuously occupied house in the UK, and has an impressive history encompassing duels, royals, and even Romans. Nowadays it has been impeccably restored into a boutique hotel which also offers lunches, afternoon teas, private dinners and a bar for residents and visitors. In good weather, meals can even be taken in the pretty private garden overlooked by the city walls.
We sampled an afternoon tea menu at Gray’s Court, and were blown away by both the beautiful wood-panelled surroundings and the never-ending parade of food which came out to us. We started with classic finger sandwiches and chicken liver parfait with whisky butter, then moved onto chestnut mushrooms stuffed with blue cheese, salmon fishcakes with horseradish cream (the best horseradish I have tasted, anywhere, ever), and Yorkshire Fettle cheese and leek tartlets. Things didn’t stop there; we were then served with fresh scones, fruit cake and cheese (a Yorkshire speciality), and my favourite, strawberry patisserie shortcrust tarts. Bursting at the seams, we were amazed that there was yet more to come with a chocolate platter accompanied by a mini chocolate milkshake. I was about to explode but in the name of research sampled a small piece of each offering on the platter – salted caramel covered chocolate truffle with honeycomb chunks, toffeed nuts dipped in dark chocolate, chocolate brownie dusted with cocoa, and chocolate medallions flavoured with brandy and ginger. It really is a miracle I managed to move any more that day.
I really couldn’t recommend this place highly enough. I have sampled many afternoon teas in my time, and this comes out up top with the best. If you are visiting York make sure you book yourself in for a session, and don’t forget – skip breakfast!
25 Walmgate, York YO1 9TX
Housed in a 17th century building which was a rope factory and saddlery (you can still see a cast iron horse’s head outside), Melton’s Too is a bright and casual restaurant which specialises in local produce, seasonal food, and fresh, simple cooking. We had dinner here on our second night in York and were all impressed with the quality of the food, the friendly service, and the relaxed atmosphere. We sampled local fish with mussels and butter sauce, grilled chicken with chorizo, seafood pie, and sticky toffee pudding with home-made vanilla icecream afterwards. I almost never order chicken in restaurants (too easy to cook myself at home), but it was the star attraction here, and we picked at it until there was nothing left but a few bones spinning round the plate. If this place were local to me I would be eating here every week, a true mark of quality. Top tip: check out their early bird set price menu, which offers two courses for the bargain price of £12.
Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms
What visit to York would be complete without a trip to the famous Bettys? Well ours was, because the queues outside were immense and we needed tea, immediately. My spies tell me it is best to try and get a table in the upstairs area (which is in more of a 30s style) than the main Edwardian room downstairs which is usually very busy. I am sure it is a very handsome tearoom, but to be honest my own preference would be to walk a bit further down the road and go to Gray’s Court instead, where at least there is breathing space and a delightful lack of queues.
We didn’t manage to sample the York Cocoa House, but if tea and coffee isn’t your thing then this might just be the place for you. It opened late last year and offers hot drinks, cakes, pastries, and, of course, handmade chocolates. York was once the home of Rowntree and Terry’s chocolate factories and considers itself to be the birthplace of British chocolate. So really, it would be rude to visit York and not take part in this piece of culinary history.
These pub recommendations all came from our incredible guide, Martin, who has applied himself to the difficult task of sampling every pub in central York – reputedly there is a different pub for every day of the year! It might also be worthwhile checking out the blog Within The Walls, which aims to review every pub inside York’s city walls.
53 Fossgate, York, North Yorkshire YO1 9TF
I loved this little pub, which is supposed to be the smallest in York. It is very much a pub for locals, as evidenced by the ‘private function’ sign put up on busy weekends to deter nosy tourists. The front bar can only fit a handful of people, but if it is full then walk up the hall to the back room which is slightly larger. It is dark and wood panelled, with old pictures, a cosy fire, slumped leather chairs and a no-nonsense attitude. Wonderful for nursing a cloudy cider on a rainy afternoon.
16 Pavement, York, YO1 9UP
The Golden Fleece prides itself on being the most haunted pub in York, and in fact you can stay overnight in rooms with their own ghosts. The pub itself has a few too many TVs and slot machines to feel particularly spooky, but it has a good bar selection and they also serve Yorkshire-sized meals – which means regular pub grub on a plate twice the usual size. Just the thing for hungry tourists, as we were.
Guy Fawkes Inn
25 High Petergate City Centre, York YO1 7HP
If The Blue Bell is the pub for a rainy afternoon, The Guy Fawkes is the pub for a blustery night. Guy Fawkes himself was born in a house on this site, hence the name. The pub is dimly lit by candlelight in the evening, with creaking floorboards and carved wooden chairs, which gives it all a wonderful old-fashioned atmosphere. On the night we went a live folk band were playing in one of the rooms, with guitars and singing softly filtering through to where we were sitting. It was really all rather perfect – this pub gets a huge thumbs up from me.
47 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LS
We didn’t get a chance to visit the Snickleway, but if Martin says it is a top pub, then my advice is to listen to him. The building is a 15th century galleried pub, with an open fire, ghosts, and a wide selection of ales.
6, Patrick Pool, York,Y01 8BB
A characterful pub offering a vast range of world beers and ciders.
20 GoodramgateYork YO1 7 LG
A friendly local pub right in the centre, with free wifi, beer garden, and a small library of books you can borrow and return.
18 High Petergate, York YO1 7EH
A small shop and deli specialising in local Yorkshire foods.
5 Bootham York YO30 7BN
Traditional sweetshop selling over 200 different varieties of sweets.
39 Fossgate, York
Artisan deli stocking global foods including breads, cheeses, chocolate and balsamic vinegars.
You might also be interested in the York Food and Drink Festival, which takes place in late September.