First look: Inside York’s newest bar, where the cocktails come with a twist

Mixing it up – Royal York Hotel bar manager Craig Surtees Whitehead
15 Nov 2015 @ 6.42 pm
| Food & drink
Mixing it up – Royal York Hotel bar manager Craig Surtees Whitehead
Mixing it up – Chapter House bar manager Craig Surtees Whitehead. Photograph: Richard McDougall

Here’s a first look inside the rather swish bar now open at the Royal York Hotel.

The Chapter House Bar is light years ahead of what was here before – and it’s creating a stir in the world of cocktails.

Chapter House Bar manager Craig Surtees Whitehead has created a unique mix of drinks. He said:

I love cocktails. I love delivering fine drinks.

That’s what I’m about – serving the guests to a high standard and making sure that, rather than being a bog standard cocktail, it’s going to be the best cocktail they’ll ever taste.

Experimenting with recipes is always on the menu. For the twisted Mohito, the rum is replaced with vodka, the sugar with a vanilla syrup and the soda with ginger ale. “It’s taking the classics, deconstructing them and making them our own,” Craig said.

He also likes to use local ingredients – and none more local than the lavender grown at the hotel which is used in Craig’s Lavender Martini.

Craig was brought up in the licensed trade. His parents ran pubs across East Yorkshire including the Crooked Billet at Ryehill and the Wellington Inn at Lund.

“When I was about eight I’d be helping my dad with the bottling up,” he said.

Craig moved to York when he was 18 and started working in pubs and “loved it”.

Later he joined the bar staff at Hotel du Vin “where my passion for cocktails really came”. But he always wanted to work at the Royal York Hotel, a dream that’s now come true.

Royal York cocktails

Berry Mojito

Cucumber Margarita

Honey Old Fashion

Fig Dark and Stormy

All £8.75

Yorkshire produce on the menu

Inside the Refectory at the Royal York Hotel
Inside the Refectory at the Royal York Hotel
The Chapter House Bar is only one part of a twin development at the Royal York. Also now open is the Refectory Kitchen and Terrace.

Ready to add to York’s healthy appetite for eating, drinking and socialising, the Refectory has been developed by London restaurateur Des McDonald.

With more than 20 years’ experience of running some of the capital’s most high profile establishments, Des has shaped the restaurant’s concept, design and menu.

York-born executive chef Nick Evans oversees the menus for the 161-cover dining room, which celebrate the wealth of flavours and tastes of God’s Own County.

“Yorkshire has some of the finest produce on offer, so it makes complete sense to use some of the best of them in our dishes.” says Nick.

It becomes a much more exciting offering; the menu will change according to the seasons and will be packed with dishes that we know our guests will enjoy.

‘Bursting with flavour’

The team behind the new nightspot: Nick Evans and Des McDonald
The team behind the new nightspot: Nick Evans and Des McDonald
Nick, who lives in Acomb and has joined the restaurant from Middlethorpe Hall Hotel, is particularly proud of short rib & Theakston’s Old Peculier cottage pie (£14), Yorkshire curd tart and stem ginger parkin with vanilla custard (both £6).

“It’s been a great experience working with Nick and his team. They’ve worked hard to create a menu that is bursting with flavour,” says Des.

Collaboration is key here: I’ve been able to share my experiences but learn a lot about what Yorkshire has to offer. We’re all looking forward to welcoming guests so that they can see the results of months of hard work.

The light-filled dining room has been designed by award-winning architects Michaelis Boyd, whose clients range from London’s Groucho Club and Soho House Group through chef Tom Aikens to the Byron restaurant chain.