It has taken a while to work out exactly why we enjoyed Bistro Guy quite as much as we did. It wasn’t down to just one single factor; it was a combination of great elements that show this restaurant is getting things just about right.
Probably the bottle of Prosecco we shared with our friends from the South had something to do with it. But there was much more to it than just a slightly tipsy, relaxing night out with old friends.
In short, Bistro Guy is exactly what a neighbourhood restaurant should be, offering great tasting food, unpretentious service, nice surroundings and excellent value.
During the day (9am-5pm) the place is busy serving breakfasts, brunches, sandwiches, teas and coffee.
In the evening, three nights a week (from 6.30pm, Thursday, Friday and Saturday), Guy Whapples and his team offer a tightly edited menu that focuses on seasonal produce from Yorkshire.
We sat outdoors, under an awning, catching the last of the sunshine in the garden that backs on to the city walls. There is outdoor seating for a dozen or so diners; indoor seating for around 20.
The style is informal and unfussy; checked tablecloths and tables nicely spaced, all carrying more than a hint of a relaxed French Mediterranean village bistro.
At the back of the garden, away from the dining area, there is a civilised space for smokers.
The restaurant website says dogs are welcome in the garden: “We’ll supply refreshments for them (on us). All we ask is, like the children, they are well behaved!”
The bistro is decidedly family friendly, with baby-changing facilities, and high chairs available; children’s meals are catered for.
The mood at Guy’s is complemented by some first-rate friendly service by the waiting staff, who seemed to know the exact moment to come to the table without making any of us feel hurried. It all added to the excellent ambience of the evening.
Informality and simplicity are the hallmarks of what Bistro Guy (formerly known as Ambience, not to be confused with Goodramgate’s Ambiente restaurant) has set out to deliver; and that is exactly what they achieve.
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Not everyone wanted a starter, and my friend’s excellent ham hock terrine was demolished before I could photograph it. Feeling adventurous, I went for what seemed like an unusual combination: oak-smoked salmon on roasted beetroot with wasabi “creme fresh” [none of your fancy French fraiche here].
It was a revelation. The sharp-sweet beetroot perfectly off-setting the more mellow tone of the salmon.
I was slightly apprehensive of the wasabi flavour, having experienced the oriental torture known as wasabi peas that some astute landlords give away to induce drinkers to quell their burning tongues with vast quantities of beer.
But this was the gentlest wasabi known to man; just a light piquancy added to the dressing. Spot on.
At the neighbouring table, the vegetarian starter option of a spinach, red pepper and blue cheese puff pastry tart looked appetising too.
40 Gillygate, York YO31 7EQ
Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 6.30pm-8.30pm
Between us we chose three of the four main courses: lamb cutlets with broad bean and mushroom compote and redcurrant sauce; oven-baked hake on sauteed cabbage with red pepper sauce topped with a poached egg; roasted Jerusalem artichoke, fine bean and pine nut risotto.
There’s always that moment when the food is served, isn’t there? You know, when you take a look at what your friends have ordered and decide who is the winner before a mouthful has been consumed.
Each of us claimed victory.
My hake tasted superb, and the red pepper sauce was mouth-watering. Though the nature of the dish meant it had a slightly sloppy appearance, not helped by my very amateurish photographs which do not do justice to the presentation.
What matters is that it tasted wonderful, with the other dishes getting the same verdict from everyone in our party.
You might already have experienced Guy’s cooking from his six years as head chef at the popular Farmer’s Cart, Towthorpe.
We finished with just one sticky toffee pudding (delicious, apparently; and definitely not for sharing said my former friend who will now be removed from our Christmas card list).
Summer pudding with clotted cream and luscious lemon posset were also on offer.
The only slight disappointment of the evening was that the Yorkshire cheese board was a little meagre. Just three cheeses, and not much by way of quantity.
This may be a somewhat harsh of me, reflecting my bias as a noted cheese fiend; but someone else made the same observation too.
With two courses for £21 and three courses for £24, the pricing was exactly right.
Early bird diners who order between 6 and 7pm (ideal for pre-theatre, just three minutes from Theatre Royal), get two courses for £19, and three for £21. Side dishes include market vegetables £3.50; chips £3.50; and salad £3.
Drinks: We kicked off with a bottle of Prosecco (£22.95), some of us switching later to the light beer (The Hop Studio Blonde, ABV 3.5%, £4.45 for 500ml), and The Hop Studio Pilsner lager (4.0%, £4.15).
House wines were Sabino Roble, a deep fruity red Tempranillo, and its white companion, Sabino Afrutado Viura, both available by the glass (175ml £3.50; 250ml £4.80) and very modestly priced for the bottle (£13.50). Several other, well-priced wines were also available.
Since our visit, the monthly menu change has taken place. Starters now include: chicken liver parfait; king scallop, black pudding and horseradish foam; tomato, sweet pea and blue cheese salad; or soup and homemade bread.
Mains feature: belly pork on a bed of apple and black pudding creamed potatoes; sirloin steak with roasted tomatoes, and mushroom filled with pesto and chunky chips; and Mediterranean vegetable pie with fresh basil sauce.
Desserts: Eton berry mess; chocolate tart with raspberry cream; sticky toffee pudding; Yorkshire cheese board.
The restaurant takes a refundable deposit on phone bookings. This is an understandably popular restaurant and booking is recommended.
Value for money