Restaurant reviews

Sublime lunch in the stunning Refectory Kitchen & Terrace at Principal York

In many ways, York is a foodie’s paradise. Packed full of restaurants, cafes, bistros, street food, and, of course, Betty’s (!), it can be hard to pinpoint the best option when it comes to eating out. Even the cafe at the railway museum is pretty damn good!

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One option which might not be immediately obvious, unless you are lucky enough to be staying in the hotel, is the Principal York’s beautiful Refectory Kitchen & Terrace. This architectural wonder is light, airy, and modern, and perfect for any occasion – a quick lunch, a long, relaxed dinner, or something in between. There was even a family function going on at the other end of the restaurant during our lunch, with multiple tables helping themselves to a lovely-looking buffet, showing that all needs are catered for, but in a very unobtrusive manner.

We headed down there for lunch with our little girl recently to see what the Refectory offers that sets it apart from its competition.

The Refectory caters for all tastes, from those with fine dining aspirations (the potted duck with pistachio and pink peppercorns starter sounded delightful) to those in the mood for something a little more rough and ready (burger with treacle-cured bacon anyone?!). We decided upon two classics: the fish and chips and Yorkshire ale cottage pie. For our little girl, meatballs and pasta was the order of the day.

Let’s start with our little girl’s dish. Sometimes when you order off the kid’s menu at restaurants like this, the result can be a little disappointing. Here, though, there was actually a tinge of jealousy from both of us; the meatballs were tender, perfectly cooked, and packed full of flavour, and the tomato spaghetti simple but delicious. The fresh parsley showed that the Refectory put as much care and attention into the little people in their restaurant as they do the big people!

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The fish and chips ticked every box that you expect from a good fish and chips: salty, crisp chips that were fluffy on the inside, flaky white, meaty fish inside a piping hot, crisp batter. The minted peas that the fish sat on were also fantastic, and not just an afterthought. You can see how good the batter was from the colour of it in the photo below.

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As for the cottage pie, this was delicious on every level. The ale really shone through, adding an extra dimension to the meat, and the potato topping was naughty and indulgent, as any good cottage pie topping should be.

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We had one eye each on pudding, but we’re ashamed to say that we had to settle for a – very good – coffee, so filling were our mains. Next time we visit, we may choose to be a little more modest when it comes to the savoury options so we can gorge on the likes of the Refectory’s sticky toffee pudding.

For a relaxed family lunch in the centre of York (and just a hop from the train station), it doesn’t get much better than the Refectory, especially if you’re wanting a space that is as beautiful as the food served within it.

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