Address: 65 Bootham, York
Prices: £25 for 3 courses
There is simply no argument strong enough to dispute the well established fact that student eating habits fall into one of two categories; student cooking or takeaways. Take your pick.
It would not come as a revelation if these habits were first formulated centuries ago, maybe when Oxford University first opened its banquet hall to a first set of freshers in 1089. Both styles cater for the day to day eating rituals of your typical student at University of York.
Lazy days take advantage of takeaway menus, while slightly less lazy days involve having a go yourself, with some cheaper, shop bought ingredients. The latter is obviously favoured by Jamie Oliver, but then again, I doubt he’s ever sampled the delights of a 3am Efes. Nevertheless, takeaways and student grub will take you through the majority of your eating needs.
The Churchill Hotel is somewhere you might consider if your parents make an impromptu visit or you’ve managed to bag a first date courtesy of the Duchess dance floor.
Immediately you feel as though you’re in a place infused with a certain presence and sense of indulgence. The high walls are donned with engraved Churchill quotes and British memorabilia from the 40s are stacked on shelves overseeing the reception. There is a small bar/lounge where you can relax, and this leads into the Piano Room; the main dining area.
I opted out of relaxing over an expensive bottle of wine and headed straight into the Piano Room.
It easily combines creative, seasonal and, above all, tasty food, with a wonderful setting
As soon as I sat down, I knew immediately I’d picked the wrong table. Not only was my table right next to an ugly radiator, but the restaurant’s computer for taking bookings was right in my eye line. This immediately was annoying and I started to spot other minor flaws, such as a very obvious fire exit sign and a big old back-up lighting lamp.
Despite these observations, the Piano Room is really quite a treat on the eyes, with red mood-lighting, golden wallpapered walls and ebony black tables and chairs.
What I also found a novelty was that the waiting staff wore uniforms that complemented and corresponded perfectly with the room’s colour scheme.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that a meal at the Churchill is well-priced for what you get, even if it looks expensive on the surface. £25.95 will get you a three course dinner, which when you consider that Pizza Express charge between £12-15 for a single course, you realise is not half bad.
The meals were predictably portioned in small pretentious helpings, yet were also beautifully designed, so the two pretty much cancelled one another other out.
I had scallops to start, followed by duck breast and finished with a banana iced parfait. The scallops looked and tasted “pucker” and went well with a creamy flavoured and rich parsnip puree. The duck was melt-in-the-mouth tender and came to the table with a little crowd of field mushrooms that were earthy and sweet to the taste.
What I did not appreciate were the accompanying triple fried chips. Not only were these things £2.95 for a meagre portion, but they tasted of nothing and arrived scorching hot, which made me seriously wonder if a microwave was involved in bringing
them to temperature.
The service was massively varied and ranged from waiters with a nervous disposition to those with the heavy handling mindset of a brick layer. At one point a bottle of champagne was plonked down with such force on a table nearby that the radiator I had made friends with started physically vibrating.
However, no dining experience is ever perfect and York does seem to lack places with reputations of fine dining and sophistication. The Churchill bucks this trend and I would definitely recommend it. It easily combines creative, seasonal and, above all, tasty food with a wonderful setting.
If you find yourself wanting a romantic dinner that conjures faint images of Paris, or want to have a nostalgic meal out with your family, do give the Churchill the time of day. Just don’t order the chips.