York’s a city with plenty of dining options. All that choice means that if you’re not in the elite class with Mr P’s, Skosh, Le Cochon Aveugle and the like, it can be difficult to make a reputation in the city, with eateries getting crowded out of the highly-competitive market within months of launching.
But some restaurants cling limpet-like to the city’s cobbled streets, proving popular year after year. The Dean Court Hotel has been a mainstay in the city for decades, and its restaurant, DCH, continues to draw attention (it earned two AA Rosettes in the latest edition of the fabled food guide).
We visited on a quiet Friday evening, trying dishes from their dinner menu that retained the old classics while adding some modern flourishes. Starting with warm bread rolls was a classic touch, the butter dissipating, oozing salty unctuousness as you bit into it. Next came a selection of starters: a prawn cocktail demonstrated why this 1970s staple has regained its place on menus today; a peppery Marie Rose sauce enrobing the fish; while the terrine of Yorkshire game served with apple and ale chutney was a fatty, moreish way to begin the evening.
The main course of braised featherblade of Yorkshire beef was pleasingly sticky and rich, with a bordelaise sauce and a mash with only the slightest hint of confit shallot (we’d have preferred a bit more oomph behind it). Featherblade is one of those trendy cuts of beef that restaurants use well. Cooked slowly, its heavy-working muscle becomes tender and delicious. A wild garlic and wild mushroom risotto served with a Parmesan crisp was gooey and gelatinous, as you’d expect slow-cooked rice to be, with a warming cheesy-garlic fire that lined the mouth.
For dessert, the obvious choice was the sticky toffee pudding served with a hearty scoop of black treacle ice cream, which was as filling and hearty as you’d expect, with a unique texture. However further down the menu you’ll find DCH’s hidden secret: the roast hazelnut mousse, served with blood orange and brown butter ganache.
When the mousse arrives, don’t fret: though it may be small, it packs a mighty punch of flavour. The marshmallow-like mousse, coated in a light crumb of nuts, dissolves to release a nutty flavour. It’s a more refined option to finish off the meal, different to the insulin-destroying sugar hit of the sticky toffee pudding, and a rich reward for those who delve deeper into the menu.
To cap off the meal, freshly-brewed coffee and tea was served alongside dainty truffles and macarons. The truffles were lumpen, an indication that they were made on the premises rather than mass produced in a factory, and included a strong, dark hit of cocoa. The macarons – a mid-2010s trend for pastry chefs – managed to provide flavour where many others falter.
Wandering out into the night, it was hard to decide which was better: the surroundings in which we’d just devoured our meal, or the splendid facade of the 1,400-year-old Gothic Minster that rose up before us.
DCH The Restaurant
Dean Court Hotel, Duncombe Place, York YO1 7EF
What we expected: A perfectly serviceable hotel restaurant.
What we got: Some inventive flavour combinations alongside the classics.
What we wish we’d tried: Baked monkfish wrapped in treacle-cured bacon. Treacle-cured bacon!