As I’m sure you are aware there are many places to eat out in Harrogate from Betty’s Tea Rooms to the numerous hipster cafes that deck the Georgian pavements of Montpellier. You can find just about any kind of food you care to think of there. My recent trip took in a couple of standout eateries that I can recommend worth a visit, each providing something unique and above all tasty food and good value for money.
Firstly the humble burger bar Damn Yankee, this unassuming place has been in Harrogate for the last 44 years so they must be doing something right. Becky the manager for the last 3 years is all smiles and welcomes. It’s a basic requirement sure but you’d be surprised how many restaurants find it hard to be friendly!
The simple concept of Damn Yankee is to provide good simple American food and plenty of it. My ultimate nachos with chicken started the meal off perfectly. It gave me something to nibble away at while I sipped my raspberry mojito (a variation on the classic you should try) just spicy enough to make a difference they left me satisfied.
The service is great here with waitress Charlie’s speedy approach very welcome in this busy gaff. But she was not on her own the guys were just as fast and friendly! The steak I ordered came with a delicious pepper sauce and oodles of crisp fries. You don’t come here to go on a diet so it’s best to go with the flow. Hence, cookie dough cheesecake with caramel honeycomb ice cream was a sweet hit too.
The booths lend this place authenticity and they are my favourite form of restaurant seating, the soundtrack too is made up of those golden oldies reserved for compilation albums. I could go there just for the retro music as much as the food. All in all a fun place that does what it says on the tin.
The next place I’m recommending is William and Victoria. It’s ostensibly a wine bar but has some cracking food as well. The wine bar is in the lower ground level of an old building with a fine dining room upstairs open in the evening. My visit was at lunchtime with a colleague who had recommended the place to me. S kicked off with a chicken liver pate in a jar with a tasty tomato and apple chutney. My devilled lamb’s kidneys were outstanding. Just the right chilli hit and not overcooked, a meal in itself.
S’s super Mediterranean inspired baked Romano peppers stuffed with spinach, pine nuts and a touch of chilli main could be smelt about 30seconds before we saw it, a heady pungent pepper aroma with big hitting flavours. The smoked haddock and with spinach and peas and a mild mustard sauce I chose for my main was delicious. Creamy and light at the same time with the texture of the haddock allowing just enough pressure of my fork to make it interesting and textured.
The place is busy with a variety of diners, some on business but many with friends or family just catching up. It’s not a formal place at all so it feels really relaxed but efficient nonetheless.
I couldn’t leave without trying a slice of that wonderful cheese Harrogate Blue. With virtually zero food miles the cheese had been kept in perfect condition (extremely important for blues). It was creamy but with a firm texture that made me slip into dream mode (you may know that I am a big lover of cheese and am one of the judges at the World Cheese Awards). This was the perfect end to an excellent meal. The food here pays homage to the classics but has allowed itself a bit of freedom to expand, a grand meal that was well priced with starters at £6 – £7 mark and mains mostly under £15.
My final thoughts are about a rather special building which houses an excellent restaurant. The Royal Baths Chinese Restaurant is housed not surprisingly in the old Georgian baths that gave Harrogate its spa town status. The tale of how it became a restaurant is another story (ask the owner Hak Ng – he tells a great account of his struggles and ultimate triumph against all odds).
The interior of this grand structure is beautiful. Large ceilings and plenty of space with simple decor are the first impressions. This is not your average Chinese restaurant. The food is wonderful, I took K an old friend who claimed she didn’t like Chinese food (I said to her you’ve got to give it a try). She finished the evening saying “That was the best Chinese meal I have ever eaten, brilliant”. Not bad for a non-believer.
The food is what makes this place stand out as well as the decor. Highlights included steamed sea bass fillets which were just divine, lightly spiced but still retaining their fresh texture and flavour they were K’s favourite. Fillet steak with a black peppercorn sauce charmed me as much as the squid with chilli and sea salt did. It looks great too with lovely presentation.
On a final note Hak has a nose for great wines as well. These are priced really keenly for example we devoured a scrumptious bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, which at £38 is a steal. There is a bar, which has the edge of Friday night excitement feel to it. This is not a flash place but classy and Hak has done a brilliant job of retaining the period features of this listed building while making it a ‘public’ building once more
A well as fine restaurants and bars there should also be a mention of the English breakfast at my B & B, Alexa House, an AA 4* B & B on the Ripon Road. This was a good start to my day. The Cheeseboard is worth a look in for all things cheese as well as numerous other independent food retailers. Johnson said “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life” I would say that I’m not tired of London at all but it is good to try other parts of the country, especially Harrogate.
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