October 01, 2017
City guide to York
With direct rail links from London, Edinburgh or Manchester taking around 2 hours York is a perfect weekend destination whatever the time of year. There is no real ‘tourist’ season in York, all year round regardless of the weather, historic buildings, medieval cobbled streets, festivals and café culture draw visitors from all over the world not just the UK. Come Autumn/Winter (post horse racing season) York steps into a cold but magical time of year.
York is not short of coffee shops or places to eat but there are a handful of spots popular with locals who have weathered the changing face of the high street. Places we choose simply because they are good at what they do; a friendly service and great coffee.
Nestled on Goodramgate near to York Minster this independent coffee shop is set across three floors. The building itself is tall, thin and rickety with precarious stairs expertly manoeuvred by the friendly staff. It’s unpretentious atmosphere, nooks and crannies make for a cosy spot to enjoy their excellent coffee. The food menu is simple with homemade cakes, scones, paninis and salads although their breakfasts are highly rated for good reason.
Brew & Brownie
Don’t be surprised if you have to queue to get in here but trust me it’s worth it. The brunch menu is one of the best in York. Pancake stacks, doorstop bacon sandwiches and proper creamy porridge are all served with a smile in a homely yet contemporary setting. If you are in a rush you can always pop a few doors down where they recently opened their bakeshop which, although has some seating, is really suited to taking out their delicious coffees and cakes.
A short walk out of the centre is Micklegate, which has recently undergone a transformation and is garnering a reputation as a foodie destination, The Partisan is a small yet vibrant independent coffee shop and restaurant. The eclectic French style décor is achingly chic and pieces are available to buy as the Partisan is partnered with The French House interiors company. The menu is interesting, varied and changes weekly with herbs and vegetables sourced and grown in their own farm just outside of York. If cakes are your bag then look no further.
You cannot mention Afternoon tea and York without acknowledging Betty’s of York which is still one of the best. However, there are a couple of other venues giving Betty’s a run for their money.
The Grand Hotel & Spa
The Grand Hotel & Spa is Yorkshire’s only 5* hotel so an afternoon here is pretty special. The hotel itself is has views of the Minister and the city’s famous walls. Their delicious afternoon tea (from £25.50pp) on traditional silverware with an attentive high service standard makes for a perfect refined respite.
The Countess of York
For a more unusual take on the Afternoon tea head down to the Railway museum. The Countess of York is a beautifully restored railway carriage set in the museum’s gardens. It’s unique, regal décor, polite friendly service and traditional menu offerings will impress every Afternoon tea aficionado.
As well as offering the usual high street big names such as Zara, H&M and Boots, York boasts three department stores (Fenwicks, Browns & Debenhams) and an outdoor market. If you venture away from the main shopping area (Coney Street) into the smaller side streets you find a diverse and thriving independent scene.
The Imaginarium on Blake Street is a wonder in itself, like an Alice in Wonderland adventure. Part curiosity, part gallery combined into a totally unique home and gift shop.
A door or so down is its sister shop The Yorkshire Soap company which is again a delightful experience - a must see for its pretty soaps and old Belfast sinks filled with bath salts, almost good enough to eat cupcake bath bombs and unusual toothpaste flavours.
Just look out for the bubbles blowing in the wind outside this pretty pair of stores.
Snow Home on Gillygate is an independent design shop which stocks and sources beautifully innovative products, a brilliant stop for gifts for those discerning male friends.
If the French shabby chic look is more your taste try The Vintage Rose on College Street, candles, antique mirrors and French enamel wear are a plenty.
Dog and Bone Vintage on Castlegate is my favourite Vintage shop in York. It has a great selection of menswear, womenswear, accessories and retro homewares. Not only does the store look great, its staff are super friendly and the prices are so reasonable.
Priestley’s on Grape Lane offers the higher end of vintage fashion with designer and heritage pieces, a small yet perfectly formed shop if you’re looking for a special vintage piece this gem is worth hunting out.
The Mulberry outlet store is just around the corner from Priestley’s and always worth a peek. It can be hit and miss in terms of finding a coveted bag but with substantial discounts on Mulberry’s retail price you can get lucky if you go in with an open mind.
A Spot of Culture
There are many and varied events and festivals taking place throughout the year in York but a main stay in the Art scene is the city’s gallery. Refurbished extensively the gallery is a light, airy and calming space which holds pieces from William Etty, L.S. Lowry and David Hockney. Currently displayed in the CoCA (Centre of Ceramic Art) space is a selection of Pablo Picasso’s ceramic work from the Attenborough collection (exhibition runs from 28 July-5 November ’17). If you prefer your art with a more subversive slant try the newly opened Art of Protest Gallery on Little Stonegate. The gallery’s industrial interior provides the perfect backdrop to its collection of artistic commentary of political and social unrest. With works by Brighton based artist Salty de Souffle, David Welker the NYC based contemporary artist and iconic street artist DEFER to name a few it’s a refreshing addition to the city.
Dinner and Drinks
Just as York boasts a wide variety of cafes during the day, come evening the city once again comes alive. With just about every cuisine catered for you will be spoiled for choice.
Ambiente opened its first restaurant on Goodramgate in York and so successful was their take on Tapas inspired food they now have four sites in total with two of them in York (the other is on Fossgate). The food is fresh and plentiful, beautifully cooked with something to suit every taste. If you’re still unsure what to try we can highly recommend the Introduction to Tapas (£29.50 for two people) accompanied with one of their many Sherry varieties. Find a cosy corner if there’s just the two of you or grab a group of friends, take a big table and enjoy.
I first visited Delrio’s a basement restaurant on Blossom Street over 20 years ago whilst dating my now husband. It was unpretentious, loud and busy but it served the best Italian food I’d ever tasted. The welcome was warm, the staff amazingly cheerful and the menu huge. We returned in July for our wedding anniversary and thankfully nothing had changed - not even the décor. If you can go, do try it.
They say that there is a pub in York for every day of the year, this may be true I’m not sure but there are A LOT. If you want a traditional type pub where you can take the papers, even take your dog and while away the afternoon with good food and a good company try The Gillygate.
Heading further into town seek out 1331’s on Grape Lane. Popular with the locals there is always something going on. As well as serving great food, drinks and cocktails, there are regular live music slots, DJ’s and quizzes. There’s even a private cinema room where you can gather friends and watch a favourite film.
Fossgate is often hailed in York as THE independent’s foodie street and its true. A favourite place for cocktails is Fossgate Social. Small but not cramped this licensed coffee bar is open during the day but if you prefer your coffee in the form of an Espresso Martini then this place is for you. The crowd is varied, the staff super friendly and the atmosphere relaxed but lively. And then there’s their cocktails….
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