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A weekend getaway provides five-star memories and an exciting new Yorkshire restaurant – book while you can still get a table
There’s a word to describe The Grand in York. Yup, you got it. Grand. But not in a snooty way. On the contrary – a down-to-earth Yorkshire twinkle greets us as we’re folded into the solid embrace of Yorkshire’s only five-star hotel. The grandness lies in this Grade II-listed edifice’s very bones – in its sweeping staircases and lofty arches of creamy limestone, its past as HQ of the North Eastern Railway, once one of the nation’s richest businesses. Minutes after stepping from the train (it’s taken us just two hours from London) we’re greeted by broad smiles in The Grand’s impressive lobby and escorted to our pleasingly spacious and elegant rooms.
York is one of the UK’s most historic cities – the Romans, Saxons and Vikings all lived and traded here – and today it could be custom-made for a romantic city break. And there can be no more perfect base to discover this jewel of a city than The Grand. The ancient city walls, soaring towers of York Minster and delightfully wonky Shambles, medieval centre of the town, are all within a few minutes’ walk. We wander past shops and cafés and discover that York is heaven for the sweet of tooth – they say you can smell chocolate on the air when the wind blows in the right direction. This is where the Rowntree and Terry families plied their chocolatey trade, and fabulous chocolate shops populate every corner.
But we’re saving ourselves for the highlight of our visit – an eight-course tasting menu at The Grand’s newly opened destination restaurant, Legacy. We predict Michelin stars for this place and its talented chef Ahmed Abdalla – book while you can still can.
Legacy manages to be both intimate and imposing. Tucked in a previously unloved ground floor room, the 26-cover space has been given an atmospheric makeover featuring original oak panelling, blueprints of the building’s design and portraits of the Edwardian era’s greatest engineers. Ahmed is focused on showcasing Yorkshire’s larder, and when not in the kitchen, he’s sourcing lamb from his butcher in Ripon, langoustines fresh from Whitby or cheeses from the Dales.
The meal starts with bursts of flavour as an array of amuse-bouches arrive – briny oyster, baby cones filled with smoky cod roe and a tartlet with ham hock and vibrant pea. And each light, flavourpacked dish that follows – velvety velouté run through with oaksmoked cheddar, halibut in a rich mousseline sauce, a succulent trio of lamb – allows the produce to sing. Standout is a dish of earthy salt-baked celeriac with black garlic, truffle and hazelnut. Umami heaven.
The sweet courses bring up the rear in triumph, especially quenelles of honey ice cream and panna cotta with tangy yuzu. The honey, we’re told, comes from beehives on the hotel’s roof. You can’t get more local than that. And each course is accompanied by wines carefully selected by sommelier Derek Scaife, a true master of the art. The following day, we awake still thinking about last night’s dishes – always a sign of an outstanding meal.
There’s plenty to do – a luxurious treatment in The Grand’s top-notch spa, swim in the pool that glimmers in former vaults or a course at The Grand’s extraordinary state-of-the-art cookery school. But we opt for another stroll through York’s historic streets to work up an appetite for The Grand’s award-winning afternoon tea as a final treat before heading home. And yes, it’s grand, in every conceivable way
Rooms at The Grand range from £169 to £269 per night (based on two adults sharing). The tasting menu at Legacy costs £120 per person, a classic wine flight is £60, and the prestige wine flight is £90. Visit thegrandyork.co.uk. LNER Advance rail fares between London and York start from £22.50 (standard) and £48.30 (first class). Best-value fares can be booked at lner.co.uk or via the LNER app.