This blustery, sputtering October morning is not the ideal context for the opening of the Star Inn The City. The Ouse is swollen and the rains are hammering down on its Grand Designs style decking.
But as you walk through the glass doors of the new 130-seat restaurant you get the sense that the weather is wholly irrelevant.
The space is undeniably beautiful and well thought out. The garden room, which is largely glass, casually looks over the river. Striking exactly the right balance between luxurious and cosy, it’s difficult to contemplate leaving once inside.
Other highlights include an upstairs private dining area, and a snug chef’s table. I’m also shown a Yurt outside, which evokes a sort of laid back Glasto glamour vibe.
An oasis of calm, you could rather quickly imagine yourself in a rural North Yorkshire setting, except you didn’t have to endure miles of winding, nausea inducing roads to get here and you probably haven’t had a fraught exchange about directions en route.
On the downside unlike the countryside you have signal and all your emails still come through (they have free wifi).
“Exactly,” says joint-owner Justin Brosenitz. “We wanted to bring a piece of the country to the city.
“We fell in love with the location, because the Museum Gardens have that rural feel to it.”
With Lendal Bridge now closed to traffic, perhaps this is not such a stretch…
Justin is joint owner of Star Inn The City with Andrew Pern, one of Yorkshire’s most revered chefs. The Star at Harome, near Helmsley, won him a Michelin star in 2001, which he held onto for ten years, and is frequently touted as the North’s finest restaurant.
As such expectations for this spin-off are high to say the least. Justin tells me they have “already taken 5,000 bookings before Christmas”. This sends me into a mild panic, I had already begun constructing elaborate plans of when I was going to eat there.
But luckily the restaurant is being set up in that trendy all day dining style, serving everything from coffee and breakfast starting at 8am to lunch, afternoon tea and of course dinner. Justin reassures me that I’ll “definitely have some luck at lunchtime”.
The all day dining menu features the sort of posh comfort food that’s enduringly popular. Diners can enjoy everything from aged steak to gastro-style fish fingers, with prices ranging from about £10 to £30.
The evening menu will initially take its lead from The Star Inn at Harome, featuring a couple of their most loved dishes, although it will change seasonally. Expect prices north of £20 for some mains.
Justin and Andrew met at Scarborough catering college, which has spawned a string of prolific chefs including James Martin, although Justin laughs “at the time we certainly didn’t realise how prolific we would be”.
You get a sense that the pair really have an understanding of and commitment to York. Justin was born and bred here and says when “deciding on a location for their new project there was no other option, but York”.
They are committed to using Yorkshire produce with Justin pointing out that even the cappuccino I’m sipping has been “made using beans from the York Coffee Emporium, who have created a special blend just for us”.
Before I leave I slightly press Justin as to whether he has any concerns opening a new restaurant in a city which couldn’t sustain the critically acclaimed J Bakers.
“None at all, I think we’ve found a gap in the market and have created a space that will appeal to the many different demographics of York. We are suitable for business meetings, family lunches and everything in between.”
Time will tell. With the reputation cultivated at Harome, the stunning riverside location, and with what promises to be incredible food, it could well be a Star in this city.
History on a plate
The Star Inn The City is built into York’s history. The original building, which backs on to the City Walls, was constructed in 1836 to house the York Waterworks pump engine, built by Joseph Smeaton in 1784.
The engine was removed to new works at Acomb Landing in about 1850 after which the engine house was converted to office use. And now it’s started a new life.