Hudsons by Craig Atchinson, belonging to Yorkshire’s only five star hotel, The Grand York, is indeed a destination food experience. Holder of three AA Rossettes, it’s rightly tipped for Michelin stardom, with ever-changing tasting menus highlighting the finest organic produce direct from a network of allotments and orchards around Yorkshire, with meat, fish and game sourced within a few miles of the hotel.
A small, characterful wood-pannelled dining room with low lighting and marquetry flooring makes for an atmospheric fine dining backdrop within this legendary hotel, while the background jazz lightens the tone just enough, even if the playlist sometimes verges on elevator music. Tables are adorned with rustic earthenware crockery and thoughtful wild flower arrangements, while the limited number of covers ensures an extremely high standard from kitchen to table and an intimacy guaranteed to make dining at Hudsons a special event even if you aren’t celebrating anything.
After a career working in some of the UK’s most notable restaurants, including Cotswold House where he achieved Michelin’s ‘Rising Star’ accolade, Atchinson joined The Grand Hotel York in 2008 and has spent the past decade securing a reputation as one of the most talented chefs in the country; developing and refining his exciting style of modern British cuisine with a flair for heralding the land and elevating the humblest of ingredients.
The front of house are nothing if not attentive and enthusiastic, although the lack of a restaurant manager on our night meant that we shared a few giggles when our waiter/sommelier did a 360 degree spin whilst brandishing a wine bottle – for I very much doubt if this is the usual style of service here. His slightly patronising running commentary also raised eyebrows, not least when he discovered that I was there to review and my guest was a successful restaurateur and married to an acclaimed French chef. Nor do either of us appreciate being called ‘love’. Such discrepancies may explain the lack of recognition from Michelin but is not something that detracts from the overall experience, in fact it may have enhanced ours by default.
Dish after dish of the nine course tasting menu showcased myriad classical and innovative techniques that were utilised, not to show off, but to offer delightful texture variations. Tremendously delicate and deftly composed, each was a further step along Atchinson’s Yorkshire journey, with bold, pronounced flavours; a canapé of crispy chicken skin topped with crème fraîche, chestnut purée and chickweed, to the opener of comfortingly autumnal celeriac espuma with pumpkin seeds and lovage which featured a surprise hit of malt beneath the appealing froth – so good you simply had to mop it up with homemade sourdough by way of complimenting the chef.
The hand-dived scallops were harmoniously partnered with heritage potato and salty bursts of trout roe to enhance the sweetness of the translucent shellfish, while poached venison wasn’t something I’d come across before and made me worry somewhat, yet the soft meat, when paired with cripsy deep fried penny bun cabbage, chard and pickled elderberries offered an unforeseen sumptuousness. Atchinson’s signature dish of North Atlantic stone bass with plump langoustines and lightly steamed sea vegetables also exceeded expectations, being brought together with a shellfish sauce and toasted buckwheat which reminds one of a sandy beach (in a good way).
But perhaps my favourite dish of the evening was the perfectly rendered and glazed barbecued duck breast with sweet caramelised shallot purée, umami-licious shitake and wonderfully bitter radicchio. The palate-cleansing dessert of blackberry and apple lifted the senses and stood me in good stead for the richness of the high cocoa chocolate mousse dessert, finished with orange segments and a moist almond sponge that made for a satisfying, confident finale. A cheese course is optional but well worth lingering over, while the macaron petit fours are better than many you’ll find in Paris.
Fine dining experiences (and I’ve had more than my fair share) can be extraordinarily dull in their uniformity and stereotypical flavour combinations, but Atchinson’s food is none of this. He doesn’t seek to emulate trends or pursue stars to the detriment of his own ethos, and The Grand Hotel York’s championship is justified by customers eager to return to the hotel simply to dine here. Yes, the front of house may need more training, but frankly who cares with food as sensational as this.
Hudsons by Craig Atchinson at The Grand Hotel York. A 9 course tasting menu is priced at £80 per person with an optional £50 wine pairing. Vegetarian menu available. For more information and reservations please visit the website.