The brand new House of the Trembling Madness is open – and it looks a million dollars.
In fact the Georgian town house on Lendal, converted from the former Robson and Cooper leatherware shop, has had more than £1 million spent on it.
Three-quarters of that sum came from the building’s owners, the York Conservation Trust.
The rest came from Ian Loftus, the man behind Trembling Madness on Stonegate – and this new version on Lendal.
And the result is a bar filled with elegance, eccentricity, charm, history – and lots and lots of beer.
A huge space
The new House of the Trembling Madness extends over five large floors.
An airy and light ground floor has more of a café feel.
There’s a bar serving drinks and lighter snacks, and some oak tables and chairs with candlesticks at the back.
Head upstairs and there’s another bar, decorated to match the green and copper fireplace they uncovered during renovation work.
There’s an art room, with pictures contemporary to the age of the building – including Hieronymus Bosch.
And fans of the original Trembling Madness will love the taxidermy room, with the familiar stuffed animal heads.
There are also typically eccentric touches – a medical model with its intestines on display on the staircase, a grandfather clock and – when Ian has the chance to fit them – a wall filled with skulls.
Food and drink
The emphasis is on beer – and food that goes with beer.
Down in the basement is the bottle shop. There are 1,000 different beers here which you can drink on or off the premises.
Between the two bars there are 22 different keg lines, and six casks. “It’s the most current possible beers in the world,” Ian said.
“Whatever the current trend is, that’s what we have.”
They are also served in four different measures. Beers on draft at the opening included Distorting Horizons Tropical IPA from Wilde Child (5.9% ABV, £4.85 a pint) and Timmermans Strawberry Lambic (4.0%, £5 a pint).
There are also more than 100 spirits – plus two custom-built coffee machines.
Food-wise you can choose from 20 different tapas selections on the ground floor bar.
And the rest of the menu has a Czech / Polish vibe, with the likes of pork knuckle and ham hock. There are burgers (a ‘Just Plain Mad’ burger is £6), sharing platters for a tenner, and the likes of a sausage sandwich for £3.50.
“It’s food that goes with beer,” says Ian. It is served daily from 10.30am until midnight.
Atmosphere and future
“We’re in a Georgian mansion house. We’ve tried to make it feel homely, so people feel comfortable,” said Ian.
“We’ve styled each room differently.”
There wouldn’t be any live music, he said. Trembling Madness would have a sociable atmosphere “for talking, drinking and eating”.
And there are two function rooms at the top of the bar, with some remarkable views over the city.
“The idea is to be able to stay in the one building, and go from downstairs to upstairs,” he said. “You don’t have to leave.”
Ian began his business career in York by opening a fashion shop, Forever Changes, on Stonegate in 1991. He later changed this into the Evil Eye, one of York’s first cocktail bars, in about 2000.
After he sold that he opened the original Trembling Madness on Stonegate.
That was threatened with closure when the owners, Betty’s Cafe and Tearooms, said they weren’t planning to renew his lease.
However, negotiations for a new lease are now well underway – so there should be a double dose of Madness in York for the foreseeable future.