Travel review: 24 hours in York from rooftop bars and Minster views to underground jazz
With the church bells tolling at the iconic York Minster as we entered the Victorian arched doorway of The Dean Court Hotel, there was no denying this is a hotel at the beating heart of the historic city.
The Inn Collection Group has already had great success with purpose-built pubs with rooms, such as the Seaburn Inn which is helping to revitalise Sunderland seafront, but the hospitality group also breathe new life into old buildings. The latest to join their portfolio, which already includes sites in Northumberland, The Lake District, Durham and Yorkshire, is the Grade II-listed Dean Court Hotel which has a long tradition of hosting visitors to York.
Built in 1865 on the corner of High Petergate and Duncombe Place as dwellings for the Minster clergy, it’s certainly a handsome building that’s rich in history and architectural detail.
It’s been a hotel for decades, but its new ownership marks the start of a new era at the Grade II-listed hotel which will see its 40 rooms, bar and restaurant undergo sympathetic refurbishment in 2022 to make it more of a pub with rooms, in line with the brand’s other venues.
In the meantime, we checked into one of the deluxe double rooms, which offers bags of space for two people with its own seating area and sash windows overlooking the awe-inspiring Minster, as well as the hustle and bustle of the cobbled streets below. The fact it’s not on a busy main traffic road, however, meant it was perfectly quiet at night – and the bells are silent – so you get a restful night’s sleep.
It’s the perfect base from which to explore the city with the Shambles, markets and more just a stone’s throw away.
There’s literally hundreds upon hundreds of bars and restaurants in York, but we ate in the hotel’s restaurant. The menu was small, but featured some hearty options – and it’s an offering which will be boosted when the site undergoes its makeover. It’s certainly a splendid room so it will be great to see the new owners give it some TLC to make the most of its high ceilings, period features and views.
After a day of sightseeing, I relished my good-sized portion of a rich chicken liver parfait with fruit chutney (£7), followed by a tower of pan fried cod loin with crushed new potatoes, tender stem broccoli and white wine chive cream sauce (£16.95).
Breakfast too, a very satisfying, perfectly-runny eggs royale enjoyed with a side of uninterrupted views of the Minster, was also a treat.
Service was very polished and friendly and began before we even stepped foot in the property, with a valet service meaning you can pull up outside of the hotel and a member of staff will park your car overnight for £20, which is a good deal considering the cost of overnight parking in this tourist hot spot. Alternatively, if you’re arriving by train it’s around a 10 / 15 minute walk from the station.
*Dean Court Hotel is running a winter break rate of two-course dinner, B&B based on two sharing from £109. There’s also a New Year’s Eve package price which is £629 for 2 nights arriving 30 or 31 December including evening meals and NYE party based on two sharing. Visit www.inncollectiongroup.com/dean-court/
When in York
York is certainly an embarrassment of riches when it comes to bars and restaurants, but here’s some must-visits for day trippers and overnight breaks, from rooftop cocktails to underground jazz.
::Sora, Malmaison, Rougier Street
Fan of cocktails with a view? Then you’ll be in seventh heaven at Sora sky bar which opened on the seventh floor of the Malmaison over the summer. The views can’t be beaten here as it offers a bird’s eye view of the ancient walls, the Minster and beyond. Cocktails aren’t as expensive as elsewhere in the city, with most coming in at a tenner. You can also pick at Asian tapas with your tipples.
::The Ivy, St Helen’s Square
All wrapped up like a twinkling present for Christmas, it’s hard to miss The Ivy on a visit to York in December. But it’s also a firm favourite all year round – with good reason.
It’s a chain, but it’s a very good one indeed with a broad menu of all day dining classics and maximalist interiors that are so rich in detail that you’ll discover something new on every visit. It makes you feel as though you’re dining somewhere special, but it’s an accessible level of luxury.
It’s best to book ahead for food, especially during the holidays, but you can often manage to get a leather stool at the bar if you’re just after drinks.
A new addition, housed in the former Rustique restaurant, Nola is a real hidden gem.
Step through its Art Deco door in Lendal into a real slice of New Orleans with stunning 1920s features such as glistening Great Gatsby-esque chandeliers, a huge pink marabou feather tree, marble monochrome floor and live jazz every Tuesday and Sunday from 8pm.
The menu follows suit with some Cajun choices you don’t often find elsewhere in the city such as gumbo and jambalaya.
It’s best to book ahead to eat downstairs in the restaurant, but they accept walk-ins upstairs in the richly-embellished bar. (Ladies, make sure to check out the toilets which are a pink dream)
::House of Trembling Madness, Lendal
Well known at the medieval site in Stonegate, House of Trembling Madness also has a much bigger sister site in Lendal which has all the quirky character of the original – but with more space.
You’ll struggle to find a better choice of beers which you can enjoy surrounded by vintage taxidermy, gothic medical paraphernalia and atmospheric candlelight.