Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

It has been a while since I have been this active on the blog let alone been in touch with my good friends at Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham, but I must say they have caught my eye of late on social media. They have recently launched a super saver menu to rival the mainstream fast food chains in terms of their value and quality while also going viral yet again with what I believe was the worlds biggest chicken nugget. Nugzilla is real.

I have made no secret that I have always been a proponent of Rub’s unapologetic spirit and the fact that the heart of the business seems to be very much worn on their sleeves. The jovial nature of their attitude towards food bleeds into their model of spreading their message on social media with things like this but ultimately they still have good food at their core. While Nugzilla and the challenge options in that sort of wheel house don’t necessarily appeal to me personally, it gets bums on seats and gives them a platform to show off the sorts of things I ate on Friday. I literally got into cooking traditional BBQ because of Rub Smokehouse and watching Brian Mujati’s YouTube channel so these guys have really imprinted on my development as writer and a cook, so it was a pleasure to be hosted by them again on Friday evening (06/07/18).

Upon arrival I was greeted by the smell of the art of meat alchemy and a really accommodating member of staff, (apologies for not remembering your name) seated at my table and was given 5 minutes to mull over the menu. I decided I wanted to go out like William Wallace and get Hung Drawn and Quartered, which as pictured below, is a platter of smokehouse treats and American inspired sides. To start at the top we have baby back ribs, pulled pork, Brisket, BBQ chicken with white Alabama BBQ sauce and Buffalo wings that’s are served with sides of onion rings, corn on the cob, corn dogs, fries and red slaw. Quite the list right? this can all be yours for £36 to feed two people or £68 for four, which when you break it down is actually very reasonable per person for the amount of food you actually get presented with while also seeing what their food is all about across the board.

It’s also worth noting I upgraded the fries to the ‘poutine’ option (gravy and cheese) which were really a really nice touch and not something you see very often on a British menu.

As ever for me my experience eating this was consistent and thoroughly enjoyable. I am a self confessed burgerholic but when it comes to a place like Rub I need some smoke rings and wings in my life. The brisket was moist while still retaining a healthy bark on the outside that ran into a vibrant pink smoke ring, the chicken and the buffalo wings were a flavoursome punch that packed the odd bit of crackling spice and the pulled pork was an equal partner in the dish as sometimes PP can get lost amongst the bold flavours of a smoked variety dish but it stood up well and in being served dry, retained it’s ‘porkyness’ rather than it just being about the sauce it was in.

One thing I have always struggled to get right on a wood fired smoker is the humble rib. A relatively cheap cut of meat that can be make or break for a cook if they don’t treat it with enough care. It has taken me a long time to be able to get up to a standard where I am even remotely happy with my own rib cooks (I can’t begin to tell you how many racks of ribs I have eaten while simultaneously pissed off about shoulda, woulda, coulda elements on the days grilling) but Rub are really consistent. Every time I have eaten their ribs I get the same effect. I get enough stability where I can pick them up without complete disintegration, enough give that I can pull the bone clean out of the rack or in this case just pull through it with a fork like I’m eating a cake, which in itself has always really impressed me. Something I learned very early on is that you can tell the quality of a smokehouse by how their ribs behave and Rubs ribs were very well behaved little guys.

It really does showcase the size of the dish when I haven’t even touched on the sides yet by this point of the post, however I don’t want to take any shine away from them. I have maybe had corndogs twice in my life as again very much like the poutine, they aren’t really something that has broken into the British culinary lexicon that often. A good example of the American carnival ‘anything on a stick’ attitude, the corn dog offers it’s participants a frankfurter that is deep fried in batter to create a breaded meat rocket on a wooden stick. Rub’s take on the corn dog is fluffy and almost decadent in it’s own way while also offering you some real variance away from the rest of the dish without being odd. It is certainly at home here but just allows you to go somewhere else for a quick minute… which is nice.

Poutine was very pleasant and the gravy just helps you continue on when you start to hit a wall in the third quarter of the platter. Trust the process as Joel Embiid says or in this case just trust the poutine. Onion rings were probably up there with my top 5 onions rings as they were full and fluffy unlike some the scraggly shit I have been served elsewhere in the past. Slaw was refreshing against the heavy nature of the meat and the corn was… yellow. Because I haven’t eaten it yet… because the meal beat me and I essentially brought home an entire further meals worth like I always do when I go to Rub.

We are a few years down the line since my first visit and it is good to see Rub still pumping in it’s original vein. The spirit has not died and neither has the quality of the food. They embrace challenges and change and even enforce some of their own by trying to ‘break the internet’ and some may criticise that or think it to be at the behest of the quality of their actual product, but it isn’t. Which has always really impressed me. We are in the age of social media where even your local butcher is putting something rogue on their A boards in the hope you will tweet it and it will drive more business (or in some cases on Mumsnet or Reddit and you get chased out of business..), Rub has embraced that and built a reputation around big, bold, brash statements and an experience that anybody with an ounce of adventure in them wants to be a part of. It’s always been a interesting ride watching how they develop and long may it continue. Birmingham loves you so just keep doing you, as it’s still working.

 

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Jack Friday!

This week was a special week for Rub smokehouse and bar in Birmingham as there was a special event held on Friday night. To commemorate Jack Daniels birthday and the launch of ‘Jack Fridays’ Rub held an evening of specially created food and drink, including cocktails and an incredible feat of culinary ingenuity that I will cover a little later called the ‘Mac n Jack’ Burger.

I had promised my Fiance a night out a while ago as it seems to have been a while since we went out just the two of us and given the advert that popped up on my Facebook for Rub’s Jack Friday and the special relationship I have built up with them the past few weeks it seemed like the perfect option. So I booked a table for 8:45pm and rocked up ready to have a real feed, JD t-shirt being worn in the true spirit of the evening!

Broad street was buzzing by the time we arrived seemingly raring to go for a heavy weekend of bank holiday festivities and the high energy atmosphere as ever was carried with us and up into the lift into the restaurant which was heaving with patrons enjoying their hard earned Friday treats. We sat down and ordered a few drinks to whet our appetites before we got started and took a look at the menu, Becky ordering a corn dog out of pure intrigue while I pondered the many wonderful options available. Before long the drinks arrived and again in the spirit of the evening I went for a ginger beer with a single shot of JD’s finest, which seemingly did the trick to relax me after a long week.

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The corn dog was a really nice experience and again came quickly regardless of how busy they were which was great, not something seen regularly on these shores the Corn dog is a hot dog sausage coated in a cornmeal batter and deep fried. The result is a rich, crispy and indulgent little morsel that to be fair would go great as a side served with your food let alone a stater as it is billed, a great little appetizer all the same! For our main meals I naturally ended up going for the epic Mac n Jack as Becky chose the pulled pork platter.

Only when I saw a few of the Mac n Jack’s pass me by did I begin to worry about my capability to actually finish the damn thing! It was huge! A mountain of meat enriched with Tennessee’s famous exported whiskey and three wooden skewers holding it all back from gravity’s cruel and unforgiving attempts to bring it crashing down all over the serving tray. I was not waiting long before it was time to see for myself if I could manage this monolithic masterpiece and was presented with a tray containing the towering burger alongside a nifty little JD branded box containing my lightly spiced fries. The Mac n Jack burger is a coming together of two 6oz cheeseburgers, cooked with a JD ice cube on top of it to imbue with the whiskey’s deep flavours, their signature 16 hour slow Brisket with JD gravy, breaded macaroni cheese (Yes. breaded. macaroni. cheese. If I break it down into singular words its easier to process!) all pinned into a burger roll and garnished with a JD rubbed chicken wing.

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Now if you think its a mouthful when reading this then try eating it! It was a surprisingly fantastic balance of deep beefy flavours, rich and silky gravy with the crispy saltiness that comes from the crunchy breading and smooth insides of the macaroni and cheese cutting through the richness without being stodgy or overbearing. A real treat and something that I hope sticks around on their menu. I couldn’t possibly try and pick it up so I had to dismantle it using my trusty steak knife and break it down into parts, starting with the top part of the burn and using it as a vehicle for the wonderfully wilting beef brisket and slowly working my way through the first layer to get to the mac n cheese below.

Meanwhile Becky was enjoying her pulled pork platter, a rather decent helping of slow cooked pork shoulder served with two sides, her selections were the smoked cheddar mash and the corn on the cob. The pork was smokey and luxurious, with the hickory really coming through as a primary flavour and creating a perfect pairing with the smoked cheddar that was running through the mash. She seemed to really enjoy it but unfortunately she wasn’t able to finish it as she hasn’t quite got the glutinous resilience that I have stored beneath my relatively modest belt line, It was however willingly put into a takeaway box for us by a very helpful member of staff and enjoyed as part of lunch the next day.

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By this point the restaurant was starting to calm down and people were slowly disappearing to do whatever they usually do on a Friday night on Broad street, which for many I assume involved quite a lot more Jack Daniels than was on my table. Myself and my good lady however were sat waiting for me to complete Rub’s latest offering, by this point I was well into the 60z cheesburgers and the spiced Rub fries, which were a really strong aspect of the meal in their own right. Crispy on the outside and temptingly fluffy on the inside which were superbly complemented with a slathering of ketchup and French’s American mustard as most fries are.

Needless to say I didn’t finish the Mac n Jack, but as the trend that Rub seem to be developing since they opened in Birmingham goes, It was an incredibly satisfying experience that did not leave you wanting for more. An all encompassing combination of flavours and textures that leaves no stone of detail unturned, no craving unquenched and no belly empty. A great addition to an already stellar line up on the menu, only enhanced by the Jack Daniels party vibe. We finished the evening with a drink at the bar (Brewdog Punk IPA on tap. Don’t mind if I do!) and a quick watch of the band that was setting up for the evenings festivities. Unfortunately our parking time restraints did not allow us to see the whole gig however they sure looked the part and sounded great while they were starting up. I hope the gig went well for them as a bass player myself I can appreciate the hard working musicians of this world as well as the food.

So as ever Rub gave us a great night out with some great food and kept me busy while also reminding me that as greedy as I am, even I have my limits however much I would of loved to have polished off the Mac n Jack and gone again on another one. The staff were excellent in such a high pressure, busy environment and they kept everybody well looked after and happy as per usual. Great work as ever guys and I’m sure it wont be long before we see you again.

….Oh and Happy Birthday Mr. Daniels I am a big fan or your work!

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Rub – The return

As some of you may have seen I recently reviewed Birmingham’s new American inspired restaurant on Broad street, Rub smokehouse and bar. In summary, I gave them a good review and said it was a good place to eat with an enjoyable atmosphere with plenty to offer its customers, although my burger was ever so slightly over done as I prefer my beef a little rarer. This was by no means a criticism just an observation made within an overall good experience at Rub.

As it turns turns out they read my review and got in touch. Throughout the review I had plenty of positive things to say about the experience but they paid special attention to the fact that my burger was a touch past my preference and it really mattered to them that it wasn’t a 100%, so I was invited back again to have a look around their kitchen to see how they prep their service, meet the management and have something else to eat. Naturally I accepted their generous offer and went to see them after work on Thursday of last week.

Starter

Starter

I was greeted by a few of the front of house staff and asked for Sean, who came out to meet me and take me to a table he has set aside for us to talk at. We sat for a few minutes and talked about the history of the company, how Rub came about, their philosophy and where they are going next, which was quite an interesting chat. The company is run by three people who all have strengths in different areas but all really care about what Rub smokehouse presents to it’s customers, this trio consists of Sean Singer, Luke Billingham and Jason Rowe who have a combined experience of 45 years in the food industry. All three have come together to successfully create a brand that is stylish, loud, fun and friendly, starting with their branch in Nottingham and as of just under four weeks ago, Birmingham.

Marvin and his pork shouldersInside the kitchen

Sean walked me through their smoking process and showed me the kitchen during service which was an enlightening experience as the kitchen wasn’t nearly as big I thought it would be but they use the space so incredibly well. One side of the kitchen is used for meat preparation and is home to Hank and Marvin. These two guys are very good at what they do and do a minimum shift of 16 hours straight, seven days a week… mainly because Hank and Marvin are the names of the smokers! Hank holds the beef brisket and Marvin is your guy for the pork shoulder. Smoking the meat for 16 hours using Hickory creates a mild and universally appealing flavour and ensures the meat gives up any hope of being anything other than melt in the mouth. They are the stars of the show and are an invaluable asset to the kitchen and it shows in just how much they are used, as Sean informed me they actually get through around 3,500kg of meat a week. Yes guys that is not a typing error… 3,500kg of meat a week, which begs the question:

‘How good is the meat and do they cut any corners to keep up with demand?’

The short answer is; very good and no. All of their meats are sourced from a farm in North Yorkshire called Sykes house farm and they receive 7 daily deliveries per week. Not a single piece of meat is frozen at Rub as it is used at its freshest straight from the farm. There is a large walk in fridge that holds it all until it is used as day one is spent planning for day two, for instance, Monday’s are spent prepping Tuesdays meat in the smoker etc. All other fresh produce such as vegetables, salad and none meat based produce is kept in a separate walk in fridge closer to the main runs of the kitchen, Interestingly enough there are also two microwaves in the building and they are used for two things and two things only, heating babies bottles and warming up porridge. Not a single drop of food that is served on the main menu enters them. Which is fantastic as everything from the burgers, steaks, fries, corn dogs, smoked cheddar mash and all the other fantastic sides are made fresh that day. Not too shabby for a place that can cater for 400 covers at once.

After looking at the kitchen and food storage I took a peak into the ‘cellar’ to look at their keg and cask set up which was also an interesting part of the visit for me as its very much an aspect of my day job working in sales for Marston’s brewery. They have multiple beers on tap at the bar including Blue moon, Brew dog’s Punk IPA, Brooklyn Lager, Samuel Adams and Budweiser to name a few, making their selection predominantly on message with the all American theme with the exception of a few great European beers (I’m looking at you Brew dog). All in all they cater for most beer drinkers and can offer you a decent amount of choice when looking for a drink to go with your ribs.

The cellar

Once this was all said and done we sat down again and talked for a little longer about their POS system and how the staff will take orders as the restaurant develops. The system is used by each member of staff using an Ipad strapped to their wrists making notepads a thing of the past and offering the customer a more interactive experience, for example if I wasn’t sure if I wanted the Rub-dog millionaire or the Rub burger I can ask the member of staff to simply press the option on their screen to reveal a picture of the dish in question. Better yet when it comes to adding my optional extras I can be handed the Ipad to select my own additions such as extra meat, cheeses, onions, pickles and that sort of thing to make each meal a truly unique, customisable experience. A really great idea made even more unqiue by the fact they are the only company to use the system in the UK at the present moment in time, paving the way for the rest of the industry to look and take note. Rub smokehouse and bar are making waves and showing people how its done in more ways than one it seems.

Sean then offered to order me some food using the system so I could see the whole process and get to grips with it, I accepted his offer and ordered the Reuben sandwich, which is a wonderful combination of the slow cooked beef brisket, slaw, Monterrey jack cheese and pickles on a sour dough roll smothered in their Jack Daniels enriched gravy. I was then handed the Ipad to select my additional extras and customise the dish, a very simple and effective way of creating something truly awesome, however I restrained myself and only had a few bits like bacon, extra pickles, extra cheese and switched the standard fries for sweet potato ones. I didn’t want to take anything away from the brisket itself as I wanted to experience it fully and not overload the sandwich so I could judge it on its own merit. Hank had done a stellar job of looking after this one as it just fell to pieces as I attempted to cut it, I gave up any hope of picking anything up with hands the minute it came to table, it was a glorious gravy laden mountain of meat and sour dough bread and I loved it. The fries were delicate and sweet on the inside and had a wonderfully satisfying crunch upon biting into them, they were not in the slightest bit greasy either which was fantastic! A good helping of salt and French’s mustard took them to another level and completed the dish. The rest of the sandwich was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and it all came together to put something really special on my platter! The bacon provided a strong salty hit, the gravy was a rich and silky quilt over the entire sandwich, the extra pickle spiked every bite with a tangy punch that sliced through from the background and left enough room on the palate for the cheese to enter the fray. Fantastic.

The reuben

Funnily enough I really loved my Thursday and Sean kept me entertained for well over an hour, which I cannot convey enough gratitude for as he is a busy man. The Birmingham branch is a perfect representation of everything that makes Rub and their philosophy so great in my eyes as it is a fun and welcoming atmosphere, offering amazing food and an incredible amount of passion. Passion for their customers and the food they serve, passion for the way their staff feel and a passion for making sure everybody leaves with a smile on their face wanting more, while literally being incapable of putting anymore in that is!

Directions anyone?

Directions anyone?

Rub smokehouse and bar is the perfect place to eat and have fun with family or friends. If you want a restaurant that offers more potential in one menu run (which changes around every three months) than some places do in a whole year’s worth of menu development, an atmosphere that is comfortable with itself and happy knowing it doesn’t apologise for being true to their philosophy, produces extraordinarily great food and cares so much about their customers they will spend precious time with somebody to talk about the hard work that do on an everyday basis then this is the place for you. A special mention has to go to Sean for taking the time to see me and looking after me so well, I also feel like this is the start of a great relationship between this blog and Rub and I thoroughly hope they continue to go from strength to strength, making all of their future plans possible so more and more people can share this brilliantly unique dining experience.

Rub is unapologetic in its quest for unique awesomeness …and I love them for it.

10/10

Rub me up the right way… visiting Rub smokehouse and bar: Birmingham

Living in Wolverhampton and loving food provides you with a bit of a problem. With the odd exception of a few gastro-pubs there aren’t really any stand out places to eat out and have the option to order something out of the ordinary, just the usual chains and a few knock offs of those chains. This doesn’t apply universally as there are a few cafes and things that are pretty good but Wolverhampton does have a habit of leaving you stuck for places to go. That is however unless you hop on the train to Birmingham.

Birmingham city center is luckily only a 20 minute trip down the line and offers a lot more choice when it comes to food and drink, so this week my friends invited us out for a wander and a bite to eat at the new ‘Rub’ restaurant on broad street. To give you a bit of background, Rub is a small chain of American style diners that seem to be very much focused on bringing an authentic experience to the high street with their huge portions, sweet/savory combinations, slow cooked meats, burgers and fried chicken that US cuisine is famous for. It looks like a recipe for success doesn’t it? the question is does it deliver?

We got there at around 6:50pm and walked into the foyer where we were greeted by two staff members and shown to the lift that takes you into the restaurant, the decor as you enter the building is modern and interesting, with artificial grass style carpeting and chip board walls that lead you into the elevator. The lift (which also has artificial grass in it) took us up to the top floor and opened its doors to reveal a booming hive of activity that graced my senses and notified me that I had most certainly arrived!

First impressions were that the place was buzzing with activity and it had a real fun factor without feeling too juvenile. the intriguing decor from downstairs was continued with tables and chairs that looked like they were made from pallets and painted intermittently, yellow and blue. The place has a great aesthetic and I really liked it. Sitting down and looking at the menu was a little bit of a task as the menu is so huge, this combined with my large appetite creates a bit of an issue, as being so spoiled for choice can be frustrating at times. The contents of the menu however did offer a good range of everything you would want from an American inspired restaurant including things like corn dogs, ribs, mac and cheese, hush puppies and slaw.

After much deliberation we decided upon a large sharing starter called ‘Born in the USA’ to begin with that we could share between the four of us, which consisted of a bowl of pulled pork nachos in the center of a platter that held four chicken wings, onion rings, pork crackling, garlic bread, mozzarella sticks and a selection of dips, finished off with four potato skins filled with bacon and cheese. Needless to say that if you were to order a few drinks this could easily sustain you all night on its own between two people, between four it was just enough. The potato skins were good, not too filling and not overdone as I cannot stand skin on potatoes that have shriveled up and dried out due to waiting to be thrown lazily out to a customer for hours upon hours in an oven. Everything else was pretty textbook really although the nacho’s stood out as the party piece. At first you don’t actually realise they have any pulled pork anywhere near them as it is buried deep within a cheesy, guacamole smeared corn chip crust. Only upon digging do you strike gold, or in this case, low and slow pulled BBQ pork that melted in the mouth and really set everybody up for the next part of the meal, which seemed to bode well so far.

It took me the entire time we sat eating our starter for me to choose my main and I still changed my mind when the waitress took my order! I ordered the ‘Rub burger’ which is the bog standard house beefburger but added a few extras to turn it into something a little bit more special and interesting. The beef burger came in a brioche bun branded with the Rub smokehouse logo and was filled with the following extras: beef brisket, caramalised red onions, bacon and blue cheese and I switched the fries for sweet potato fries, this turned it into a little bit of a mouthful to say the least. Upon receiving it everything looked great and it delivered in terms of its aesthetic, however the actual burger itself wasn’t by any means the best burger I have ever had. I ordered the beef medium rare but it was fairly dry and the texture wasn’t as good as I would have hoped, but it wasn’t a bad burger, just a few minutes past how I like it. The brisket was the star though as it redeemed the meal some points that the burger had lost, very much like the pulled pork it just wilted away when it was given the slightest tug and almost completely gave up on having any sort of resistance the moment you started to chew it. Finishing the burger off nicely was the blue cheese and bacon which gave it a much needed salty richness that elevated it a few levels and gave it the extra dimension that it needed, paired with the crunchy sweet potato fries it was a very enjoyable experience indeed.

Given all that I am sure you can understand dessert was not really an option this time but the menu looked interesting enough, including an item called the ‘Kitchen sink’ which you guessed it… come out in a small aluminium kitchen sink. extra points for having a sense of humour! speaking of which Rub doe not seem to take itself too seriously which is nice, the atmosphere is relaxed throughout even if it can get a little bit loud sometimes, you never feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic. There are little quirks to found like the sign to find the toilets that reads “for those that tinkle and for those that sprinkle” with the corresponding arrows to men’s and ladies bathrooms, the quirky cocktails and desserts that come out of the kitchen with what can only be described as fireworks hanging out of them (literally). The only downside is that it’s the type of place where the staff seemingly maul people on their birthday with the raucous rendition  of ‘Happy birthday to you’ while serving their dessert, and I kind of hate that. But that is more down to me being a miserable old fart at the ripe old age of 26.

So in summary the staff treated us well and were attentive to our needs, the food was not by any means perfect but it was a thoroughly enjoyable meal on the whole. The time that we spent in there on a busy Saturday night didn’t feel like we were being rushed out of the door while the food was hearty and satisfying, it was pretty good value for money at the same time too as including drinks between four of us it came to around £90, which, in Birmingham city center is pretty much about average. It was a restaurant that needs to be visited really to see if it is your type of thing but it is certainly mine. This place is a must visit in a big city with lots of really good restaurants that provide great food, and that is high praise in itself.

Ratings:

  • Aesthetics and feel – 4/5
  • Service – 4/5
  • Foods ‘wow’ factor – 5/5
  • Food quality – 3.8/5
  • overall satisfaction -4/5

Total = 20.8/25

Birmingham’s new rising star is a must visit and I encourage anybody to give it a go

York – Hungry Buck on tour

These past few weeks have honestly been very eye opening for me. I have always thought of the south of England as the place to be for the discerning foodie to get their ‘rocks off’ as it were and I am not ashamed to say that I wasn’t entirely right.

I still think that the south stylises food trends in a way that is hard to match, for instance; The traditional sleepy Devonshire seaside town with its cream tea’s and fish bars, the fashionable edible universe that is Brighton, Food markets and street food gems of London and everything else that incredible big city has to offer. However the UK has thrown me a curve ball in the shape of the walled medieval city of York, and what a place it is indeed.

First of all I will say that I know Yorkshire has a lot to offer but I have always just been more drawn to the in vogue south as all of us textbook, cliche foodies are, so apologies to Yorkshire for ever even remotely underestimating your produce. From the moment I got their I was completely and utterly spoiled for choice when it came to choosing our plan of action in terms of where to visit, the vast and rich history seeps out from under every cobble and brick. The Minster has a fantastic presence in the city as its Gothic architecture pierces the skyline from every direction, the walls mark the outskirts and whisper the tales of hundreds of years of marauding invaders with its visible battle scars, weathered but ever present. So many battles that have since been forgotten by the modern world happened in the city, a person would be forgiven for stopping in their tracks while walking the walls, running their hands across the ancient wall and wonder just how many people have done the same over the thousands of years it has existed.

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All this makes for an incredibly dramatic backdrop for a gastronomically motivated tour of the city. Speaking of which, I guess I should show you some of what we found. First of all, we arrived needing to find something to eat quite badly so it was very much a case of diving in and seeing what we could find. Now there is a LOT to get through so I will give a few mini reviews and tips regarding what to do and where to eat in this post, then finish off with two more thorough, extensive write ups about the top marking places that we discovered during our stay.

Bagel Nash

We arrived early afternoon in York and checked into our bed and breakfast with food already on our minds. We walked around the city scoping out everything available and came to a place called ‘Bagel nash’, a brand that I wasn’t familiar with until I did a little digging. They are predominantly a northern based chain who operate from their Leeds HQ and prepare bagels while you wait, in a sort of ‘Subway’esque way and also have a range of smoothies to go with their extensive bagel and filling options.

We went for the mozzarella and pesto bagel and the smoked salmon, cream cheese and olive (New york) both on wholemeal, with a fruit smoothie each. It wasn’t a cheap meal for the amount of food that we had but it was very enjoyable filler and it certainly serves its purpose. The decor was modern and quite interesting without being over the top or soulless. Luckily, It also didn’t have any underlying guilt factor like most fast food and it felt like we were only putting good, positive things into our system after a fairly lengthy drive. Overall it was a very pleasant experience and I would encourage you make a visit to them if you get chance.

Visit rating: Give it a try

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The Shambles

Following this we went for a bit of an exploration around the Shambles, which is a series of lanes, market stalls and eateries that have a more independent feel to them. What a hidden gem the shambles is, although a diamond in the rough in comparison to say The lanes’ In my beloved Brighton, the shambles has a lot to offer. There is so much going on down there its hard to keep track of but its certainly worth a look, every turn of the head presents a new cafe, pub, sweet shop or another foodie oasis in a beehive of cobbles and hungry punters. We didn’t end up eating anywhere around the shambles in the end as we were spoiled for choice and seemed to be a little overwhelmed with choice, while also being short on time trying to pack so much in to a few days. The Shambles is a place well worth a visit and there is a lot available to see, eat and drink.

Visit rating: Essential.

Wild boar pies, found at a pasty and pie shop in The Shambles.

Wild boar pies, found at a pasty and pie shop in The Shambles.

Cafe Concerto

Walking around for a while and taking in some of the culture on offer (such as the best busker I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming across playing a full on piano int he middle of the street) I developed a need for coffee and cake. As some of you may know the need for coffee and cake is an insatiable one and in my experience can lead you into two types of places. Really good ones that leave you feeling as happy and satisfied as a ‘pig in muck’ as they say, or alternatively leave you fuller but no more satisfied than if you’d eaten a bowl of dry porridge. It might fill you up but its not good for the soul.

Luckily on this occasion it led us to a little place by the Minster called ‘Cafe concerto’ that comes with tag line of ‘Truly independent -The ultimate neighbourhood restaurant’. This appealed greatly as we saw there was a few attractive options on the dessert menu and tea/ coffee was available too, so we sat down and I ordered the Vanilla and chocolate cheesecake and a cup of coffee while my fiance ordered a tea and a banoffee pie. After a few minutes the desserts were dropped off at our table by a pleasant member of staff and we got stuck in.

The cheesecake was a baked new york style vanilla cheesecake with little flecks of chocolate running through it, I find cheesecakes can be a little too much towards the end but this one was enjoyable all the way through. I found it wasn’t overly dense which is usually a bit of a bug bear when it comes to cheesecakes and the biscuit base was pretty good too to be fair, even better when paired with a coffee. My partners banoffee pie however was just too sickly for me as it was just a bit too sweet, if you like a lot of cream and to take sweetness to the next level then that is the best choice for you. Just a bit too rich for my blood I think.

Decor was a bit ‘woody’ but it was really a nice place to be. Its a little bit out of the sun so it can feel a little dark in there but its certainly not dingy, the wooden chairs aren’t the most comforting but the service and food on offer is warming enough, paired with the cool ‘chalky’ drawing of the Minster and the sheet music used as wallpaper it provides a very intriguing, jazzy feel to the restaurant which I love, being a musician myself. Very much enjoyed our visit here and would recommend you give it a try, its got a real individual personality and should be appreciated for it. Support the real independents!

Visit rating: Essential

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The Fudge Kitchen

One for the sweet toothed confectionery hunters out there, The Fudge Kitchen uses their own take on fudge to provide something a little bit different. They provide plenty of choice in terms of interesting flavours and even have a viewing area in the back of the shop so you can watch them make it.

In terms of the quality of their fudge I must say its very good and is well worth poking your head around the door for a sample. We went for the dark chocolate and sea salt. Very creamy and quite moreish but you will have to go in and see them if your a fudge fan, well worth a look. You can also buy online (go to the bottom of the page).

Visit rating: Worth a look

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These are a few of the notable stops that we took while in York and would genuinely recommend you have a look at if your in the area. The historical atmosphere and bustling city streets is a real treat for anybody who decides to visit, it is a fantastic place that really should be seen to be appreciated. I have two more reviews to go but I will be putting that into a ‘part two’ post this week, as this post is getting quite long and I want to go into a lot of detail on the final two restaurants. Nobody wants readers fatigue after all!

The final two big hitters that I have left to write about that really impressed me were La Vecchia Scuola and GBK: Gourmet burger kitchen. Keep your eyes peeled for comprehensive reviews on them both at a later date, In the meantime here are a few useful links if you are interested in traveling to York.

http://www.visityork.org/

http://www.fudgekitchen.co.uk/

http://www.cafeconcerto.biz/

http://www.insideyork.co.uk/what-to-see/shambles.html

http://www.lavecchiascuola.co.uk/

http://www.gbk.co.uk/