A confession. I visited The Grand, York hotel’s new restaurant Legacy late last year, not long after it had opened and held off on this review. Why? Because rather than take my word for the quality of the cooking or, in the one or two early weaker spots, the obvious potential, I wanted to give it the chance to bed-in a little, and fully expected Michelin to have backed up my vaguely inevitable gushing. And it has.
Well, the Michelin Guide has given Legacy a mention which, for a restaurant less than a year old, is still an achievement. But I thought it may have received the higher praise of a star – which head chef Ahmed Abdalla happily admits is the ultimate aim – or, at the very least, a Bib Gourmand. Because when Legacy is good, it really is that good.
The name “Legacy” is well chosen, a nod to the “inspiring engineers and architects of York’s past”, the people who made York what it was and what it is, but also to the local provenance of the great Yorkshire produce at the heart of this modern British menu.
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The room is small and intimate – just 26 covers, in fact – and decorated with portraits of pioneering locals, plus original oak panelling, ironwork and blueprint murals of this Grade II listed building. Remarkably, for a room that references its surroundings so strongly it also manages to avoid feeling like a hotel restaurant.
It’s a fine setting for Abdalla’s assured cooking (and sommelier Derek Scaife’s charm and clever wine matching), available as either an eight-course tasting menu for £120 a head or – a recent addition – a five-course at £95. Given the special occasion nature of the setting, I’d suggest the former…
Things start in suitably classic form with a Parker House roll which, served with cultured butter, and goats herb butter, is the kind of thing you could eat about 17 of, but better to save a little to mop up course two, a Jersey Royal Velouté , with oak smoked cheddar and chicken skin. It’s a delight of a dish, familiar and comforting, a simple, subtly elevated celebration of the ingredients, and very delicious. This is a theme that continues through the subsequent courses, such as celeriac with black garlic and truffle, and, particularly, halibut with cauliflower and mousseline sauce.
Trio of Yorkshire lamb follows, and it’s the only slight misfire. It’s tasty but as the final “main” dish and thus the “peak” of the meal, it doesn’t quite hit the heights of previous (or, as it turns out, subsequent) dishes. And, as an aside, I always wonder about serving meat on the bone in such surroundings. As any fule kno, the meat right on the bone is the best bit, but look around any smart restaurant and you’ll watch people attempt (and generally fail) to pare off that particular nugget with a knife, or leave it on the bone either out of ignorance or, worse, with a wistful, longing stare.
Just pick it up and eat it with your fingers. Seriously. It’s fine. But, given that so many are confused and fail this bit of restaurant etiquette, perhaps it falls onto chefs to either explain (and send out a fingerbowl) or remove it in the kitchen? It’s not a hill I’m looking to die on, but a lot of people do seem to panic in such surroundings…
I digress. Hell, it’s me, I do that. Desserts brought everything back to full admiration for the kitchen. Both the palate-refreshing Annabel’s Strawberry, a trifle-esque mouthful or two of strawberry granita topped with a lavender and chamomile foam and, particularly, Grand Honey, a dish destined to be a signature, if it’s not already. The honey comes from the hotel’s own bees – you can see them on the roof if you’re staying in the new extension – and runs through a honey/elderflower/yuzu combination of panna cotta and ice cream and shards of meringue and a honeycomb-shaped sweet crisp.
This was a fine, fine meal at a very new restaurant and my understanding is it’s already more relaxed and assured, a state the Michelin recognition would appear to reflect. One suspects though that Michelin aren’t quite finished with this one just yet…
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