Restaurant: The Blue Bicycle
Address: 34 Fossgate
Prices: £50 for three courses
Review: Molly Riggins
Rating: * * * *
Although The Blue Bicycle is a firm spot on the list of fine dining resturants in York, I had heard mixed reviews. Amongst hushed whispers of awe about the restaurant’s award-winning food were rumours that it was over-rated and extortionately priced. Indeed, Nouse’s own ex-Muse Editor, Nicky Woolf, reviewed The Blue Bicycle in early 2007. As a self-confessed food junkie and waitress who has high expectations about service, I decided to find out for myself.
Next to the river bridge on Fossgate, it has an intriguing past that the average York resident would never know of. At the turn of the 20th the building served as a brothel of some repute which was open for business when its mistress left her blue bicycle outside.
Today, however, only its namesake remains and the building is now home to a busy little restaurant which is famed for serving up a host of gastronomic delights. At eight o’clock on a rainy Thursday night the restaurant was almost dead – the only other diners were an elderly couple who, judging by their chattering with the staff, were loyal, well-heeled regulars. Yet, despite its emptiness, the rooms still seemed welcoming and nowhere near as imposing as I had imagined a restaurant with such a reputation would be.
There was an extensive wine list and eventually we decided on a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Whilst we looked over the starters, we were brought home-made bread that was served in a terracotta pot with butter and roast garlic. A delicious touch.
York is not known for its ability to cater for vegetarians but I was impressed to see at least two original options for starters – no boring quiches or pasta dishes to be found here.I considered sautéed mushrooms on garlic focaccia but ended up going for the blue cheese and walnut polenta with a soft poached egg. The polenta had a wonderfully delicate taste and was scattered with crunchy whole walnuts, and the egg was perfectly cooked.The boyfriend looked a little dismayed when his starter of seared scallops with pumpkin purée arrived.
The four tiny scallops atop a bed of orange on a vast expanse of white plate did look a little sad; however, once he got over his disappointment at the lack of food, he conceded that they too were really excellent.
He more than compensated for this with a sirloin of rare Yorkshire roast beef with a horseradish croquette, red onion purée and warm tomato chutney for a main course.
To be sure he’d have enough to eat, he also ordered a side of chunky oven chips with the skins on. The struggle that ensued though brought the phrase ‘eyes bigger than your tummy’ to mind.
I had a Middle Eastern vegetarian mezze plate which consisted of a black bean tagine, pine nut tabbouleh and falafel balls with home-made hoummous. The soft texture of the tagine contrasted beautifully with the crunchy falafel and the rich, nutty, tabbouleh – although I also struggled to finish my plate.
Not being one to give in to any obstacles that come my way when searching for resturant truth, I convinced the boyfriend that we could certainly fit in another course.
We decided to share a pudding from the specials board: the selection of ice creams in a brandy-snap basket with fresh fruit. Even though it was not as exciting as some of the other options such as the chocolate and thyme tart, it was a refreshing end to the meal.
Throughout the meal the service was exemplary, although in a near-empty restaurant I wouldn’t expect anything else. The food exceeded my expectations; however, with only one vegetarian main course on offer I’m not sure how quickly I would return.
We didn’t get much change from fifty pounds each for a starter, main course, shared pudding, wine and service charge. From my experience though, I can truly say that the food and service at The Blue Bicycle emphatically proves the phrase, ‘you get what you pay for’ right.
To be fair, yes it’s expensive, but it is well-worth saving up to go there as a really special treat during your time in York.