First-look restaurant review: Under the Banyan tree

Indonesian curry with chicken
11 Jul 2013 @ 5.10 pm
| Food & Drink
Inside Banyan Bar & Kitchen. Photographs: Richard McDougall
Inside Banyan Bar & Kitchen. Photographs: Richard McDougall

Review: Banyan Bar & Kitchen
Venue: 2 Little Stonegate, York, Thursday, July 11

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. But this came pretty close. We were guests of the owners of York’s newest restaurant, and their hospitality was generous; to be clear from the start, all we paid for were the couple of extra drinks we added to our meal.

Banyan Bar & Kitchen is a new eatery from Arc Inspirations LLP, owners of a number of venues around Leeds, Harrogate and now York. We were invited to attend the launch event, prior to opening to the public on Friday 12 July 2013 and arrived to a well orchestrated and friendly greeting.

The name refers to the fig tree that you’ll find in various hotter parts of the world – but it takes me back to a wasted youth trying to conquer the banyan tree in Jet Set Willy on the ZX Spectrum.

Memories… the Banyan Tree as seen on the ZX Spectrum
Memories… the Banyan Tree as seen on the ZX Spectrum

Such two-dimensional thoughts were soon cast aside as we entered the restaurant, set inside a lovely chapel which has stood in Little Stonegate for more than 160 years. Recently it formed the coffee shop and the back of Borders, but is now a self-contained venue retaining much of its original architectural charm.

Perhaps the décor is slightly ‘themey’, but my wife summed it up positively saying that it had lots of textures, giving it character and warmth.

Seated rather appropriately under the banyan tree sculpture, we ordered starters of a trio of bruschetta and crab & avocado. For the former I chose the vine tomato, basil, red onion & garlic (v), prosciutto ham, marinated courgette, rocket & balsamic and the avocado & crab (this has a menu price of £5.50).

It was as delicious as it sounds, light, crispy and flavoursome.

My wife’s starter contained handpicked white crab with avocado, brown crab mayo and fresh tomato served with crisp crostinis and was equally lovely, if a little more substantial (£7.25).

Tasty trio of bruschetta
Tasty trio of bruschetta
Crab with avocado
Crab with avocado

Our main courses arrived after a short wait, having plumped for the Indonesian curry (on the recommendation of our waitress) and the sea bass with pea and lemon risotto.

The curry was fresh, tasty and full of texture, with butternut squash, spinach, broad beans and julienne asian vegetables poached in an Indonesian style peanut curry sauce, served with basmati rice, roasted cashews (£12.90). The sea bass was cooked to perfection and my wife felt the rice to be possibly the best she had tasted (£17.95).

Indonesian curry with chicken
Indonesian curry with chicken
Sea bass with pea and lemon risotto
Sea bass with pea and lemon risotto

We declined dessert as by this time we were full but also contented. The bill would have been just the far side of £50 had we been paying, which we both felt to be in the “special occasion” bracket. Maybe that’s my Yorkshire nature, however we enjoyed the food and the atmosphere very much.

Naturally the restaurant was pulling out all the stops for its special preview day. It will be interesting to see whether it can maintain such high standards once it is into the swing of day-to-day dining. The signs look promising. We will certainly be returning to find out.


Banyan Bar & Kitchen, 2 Little Stonegate, York YO1 8AX | 07966 794959 |
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