Buzzfeed says York is the North’s best city. Too right. Here’s what they missed

Pat yourself on the back, York. You're (mostly) ace
22 Nov 2013 @ 8.17 pm
| Opinion
Pat yourself on the back, York. You're (mostly) ace
Pat yourself on the back, York. You’re (mostly) ace

List crazy website Buzzfeed has summarised York with its usual irresistible combination of big pix and breathless sentences. And their assertion that ours is the best city in the North is bang on.

We were way ahead of them on the virtues of The Willow with its prawn cracker madness, and of the joy of our fortress like city walls.

But listen up guys, we have some Buzzfeedback. You see your whole thing is written through a southern lens and a pair of Google glasses.

Reason number one they offer for York’s greatness is, and we quote, “Bettys – need I say more?” Yes you need. Bettys, however many queue to enter its St Helen’s Square branch, will forever be associated with the stiff and floral Harrogate rather than the unconventional, slightly macabre, York.

Also the downstairs of the York one feels similar to the Titanic, all wood panelling and social hierarchies.

Secondly, as someone who spends roughly a third of their life riding that East Coast Rail, I have to question its role in York’s greatness.

If you have ever spent a Sunday sitting in the vestibule of a carriage, with an Irishman in possession of three budgies and four cans of Stella, whilst the train stops at Donny for an hour and a half, you might too.

Buzzfeed describes Shambles (YorkMix‘s HQ) as a “film set”. This may be true, but only if it’s a zombie film stuffed with shuffling extras who make it a nightmare for anyone sprinting to the Park and Ride.

The well meaning chaps at BF focused on York’s obvious attributes to the outsider . But it offers much more than the construct the tourists see, so we thought we’d delve a little deeper and offer up a few reasons why this is the city to be venerated by all others.

The view from Lendal Bridge

Photograph: Allan Harris on Flickr
Photograph: Allan Harris on Flickr

Anyone who commutes into York via train or bus, or lives across the river knows the king-like feeling you get when striding across Lendal Bridge before 9am. It offers a snapshot of the city. With the mighty Ouse stretching before you and all those mismatched buildings and balconies clustered beside, the only thing to do is plug in an epic tune (not Coldplay) and enjoy the view.

Proper food and bonkers bars

Il Paradiso Del Cibo in Walmgate, York
Il Paradiso Del Cibo in Walmgate, York
York’s dining scene is more than just queuing for Fat Rascals and Rostis. Independent gems such as Il Paradiso and The Blind Swine are the type of restaurants that are so York in character, they could not exist anywhere else.

And our slightly weird bars, namely Evil Eye and the House of Trembling Madness offer up that same warm eccentricity.

Revolution in the Shed

local celebrity and quiz aficionado Alan Leach
City star and quiz supremo Alan Leach

Agreed Buzzfeed, Shed Seven are great. But did you know there is more to the band than just discoing down?

Drummer Alan Leach has hosted music some of the city’s finest pub quizzes for nine years, going for gold by creating a smartphone app to enhance the art of quizzing.

21st century boys

Son of York : Edd Barlow
Son of York: Edd Barlow

Anyway Shed Seven no longer stand as lone torchbearers lighting a path through an otherwise gloomy Yorkmusic scene. Gone are the days when Sheffield, Leeds and even Helmsley (One Night Only, they were big in 2007) snigger at our offerings.

Today we’ve the properly talented Benjamin Francis Leftwich, with songs to make even the cold-hearted cry. We are also gifted with Edd Barlow who has been mesmerising girls (and boys) with his Jeff Buckley style vocals since his school days.

Reasons to be cheerful

So we are all in agreement York is pretty great. We didn’t have time to refer to all the other sources of its greatness, but special mentions go to the Theatre Royal pantomime; drinking in the Museum Gardens; the shop on Low Petergate that only sells cat related things and the lights that decorate the station.

Oh, and there’s quite an impressive church here as well…

  • What’s your offbeat reason why York is great? Let us know in the comments…


7 thoughts on “Buzzfeed says York is the North’s best city. Too right. Here’s what they missed

  1. Grays Court is a great alternative to Bettys for afternoon tea; you don’t have to queue and the wood panelled gallery area with big comfy sofas and a fire is heavenly in the winter. The main problem York residents have with Bettys is the ridiculous queues, i think if one could just pop in on an afternoon whim for tea that would be great. Mannion opposite the Assembly Rooms is also lovely for lunch, but there normally is a wait.

    p.s. It should really have an apostrophe!

    1. Come, on, Yorkies – you should all know how to avoid the queues at Bettys! Go for breakfast before 10am or supper after 7pm and I guarantee there will be a tiny – or non-existent – queue. I second the comments above about what a great company Bettys is too. OK so it’s a little pricey, but the food and drinks are superb and the service always excellent.

  2. Buzzfeed says “The Willow, a resturant that doubles up as a nightclub” Apart from not being able to spell, you can tell they have no local knowledge as it was shut as a restaurant a few years ago for crimes against hygeine. I think they got sick of being prosecuted and fined by local council health officials.

  3. I’m upset that you feel so strongly against Bettys, perhaps you have been misinformed? As for the ‘macabre’ atmosphere – the downstairs used to be a bar serving soldiers stationed nearby during the war, and Bettys delivery vans were used as ambulances too. Perhaps that is what you’re getting at? war/death?

    I don’t feel you’ve given Bettys enough credit – and it is your own misjudgement that Bettys is an institution for a ‘social elite’. I am aware that everyday, a York homeless trust comes to collect Bettys unsold bread, and that this year Bettys York raised over £10,000 for York Stroke Association – a figure which the company matched! Along with the other branches, Bettys are also working towards an environmental zero-to-landfill quota too.

    It surprises me that after your class assumptions surrounding Bettys, you then advocate for The Blind Swine – a notoriously decadent and pretentious establishment, refusing custom to those they don’t like the look of, and all with a hefty price tag that only reinforces ‘social hierarchies’.

    And for future reference, Bettys is spelt without an apostrophe.

    1. Interesting points Jessica. I don’t think Emma was attacking Bettys, just having a gentle dig, and suggesting it is more representative of Harrogate than York.

      And thanks for the spot on the errant apostrophe: all corrected now. I do wonder what becomes of the apostrophes summarily ejected from names like Bettys and Waterstones. Do they end up on street corners, begging to be taken home by possessive singular nouns?

  4. No matter where else you might visit seeing someone dressed as a Viking or a Roman really doesn’t seem odd to you.

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