A Restaurant Worth Travelling To: Roots, York | sheerluxe.com
In this series, we travel to some of the UK’s very best restaurants. And while these establishments are destinations in their own right, most are well worth a day trip or overnight stay. This month, we paid a visit to York’s Roots for a masterclass in marrying refinement with relaxed surroundings.
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The Concept

Tommy Banks first came to our attention in 2016 when he won Great British Menu two years in a row. Three years prior, he’d become the UK’s youngest Michelin-starred chef at the age of 24, after taking over the kitchen at his parents’ pub, The Black Swan at Oldstead in Yorkshire. A self-trained chef, Banks’ tenure has seen the remote Yorkshire inn retain its star every year since and win accolades aplenty, including TripAdvisor’s ‘Best Fine Dining Restaurant In The World’ award in 2017.

In late 2018, Tommy and his family opened a second site, this time in York. Rather than serving a tasting menu, Roots is a sharing-plate restaurant that celebrates the produce that’s grown or foraged on the family farm in Oldstead. This might be a more casual affair – with a waiting list that doesn’t run into months – but it’s every bit as good as its Michelin-starred older sibling.

The Setting

At 50 covers, this is a much larger proposition than the inn. Located on Marygate, the Tudor-style building sits across from the River Ouse and runs alongside the picturesque museum gardens. The site has been given a bright makeover which mixes original feature fireplaces and oak panelling with sleek seating and table legs that resemble roots themselves – naturally, like everything the team does, much of this modernist furniture was made in the workshop at the farm. A large stained-glass window leads up to the bar area where guests can enjoy an aperitif over views of the gardens. We suggest a ‘Mayweed Martinez’ and ‘Woodruff Old Fashioned’, both made using foraged ingredients from the hedgerows and woodlands at Oldstead.

The Food

Instead of the ever-changing 11-course tasting menu served at The Black Swan, Roots adopts a different style to reflect three growing groups: ‘Preservation Season’ (October-December), ‘The Hunger Gap’ (January-May) and ‘The Time of Abundance’ (June-September). The whole menu never changes at once: instead, it evolves as the seasons change and various produce becomes available on the farm. 

Guests can choose as many dishes as they like, or the team will serve a selection of sharing plates – The Roots Feast – for £60pp. Whichever you opt for, make sure to order the Lincolnshire poacher custard (a death-row condiment, if ever there was one) and crown prince squash butter, both designed to be spread thickly onto slabs of warm homemade sourdough and crisp seed-laced crackers. Wild garlic toast topped with charcoal emulsion and melt-in-the-mouth lardo is a must-order starter, as is our hero dish, the lamb and fermented turnip bao, which manages to be both soft, sour and sweet.

Other hits that highlight local produce include salt beef with mustard, gherkins and old Winchester cheese (a refined take on a rueben sandwich); cured halibut with pickled peppers and Yorkshire rhubarb; and kale dressed with sheep's yoghurt, pickled walnuts and cured egg yolk. You’ll also find vegetables in the puddings: think carrot and chicory tiramisu and crown prince squash treacle tart, both of which manage to be in turns inventive and comforting – just what you want from a dessert.

The Verdict

We can’t think of many occasions where we’ve sought out a chef’s dish the day after eating it, but that’s exactly what we did in York with those lamb bao, which are occasionally served up at a market stall in the city centre at weekends, alongside cordials, vinegars, chutneys and oils made at The Black Swan. They’re onto a good thing – these pillowy buns, crammed with sweet lamb breast and sharp vegetables, taste just as heavenly huddled under a tent as they do served from the pass. Back at Roots, you’ll find it’s reasonable too: the team offers a midweek set-lunch menu, priced at £35pp, while its new Sunday feast menu comprises tender, salt-aged meats or roasted fish served with Yorkshire puddings and roasted root vegetables from Oldstead. We can’t imagine a much better way to end the week.

Where To Stay

The restaurant doesn’t have bedrooms, but we suggest staying at the nearby Grand Hotel & Spa, the Principal York or Grays Court by the Minster if you’re looking to make a night of it.

How To Get There

Trains from London to York run frequently and take two hours and 20 minutes direct. Roots is a seven-minute walk from York train station.

68 Marygate, York, YO30 7BH

Visit RootsYork.com

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