MR P'S CURIOUS TAVERN
Mrs. Cheoff and I dropped in here on February 16th 2017 for lunch on our way home from a Wearside (literally) Valentine's Day stay. The lingering (ever-present) romance meant that we agreed to share the 'Taste by Surprise' menu without too much argument.
Charcuterie Plate: Hazelnut and Apple Salami, Chorizo, Lomo,
Bread, Oil and Balsamic
All on this platter was quite delicately cured and flavoured. Very thin slices - but about right considering what was to follow. We dipped our bread into an oil which was unremarkable and a vinegar which was certainly much sharper and less sweet than expected or wanted.
Calamari with Marie Rose Aïoli
The disaster. I foolishly assured Mrs Cheoff that this would convince her to include properly cooked squid in her menu options in future. What arrived was a bowl of those elasticated bobbles which are ideal for tidying up long hair but get sent back to a professional kitchen. The 'bobbles' were coated in a poorly seasoned, slightly damp ‘batter’. I still haven’t worked out how the squid could be so over-cooked inside while the outside coating was so limp. The sauce at least had a fruity, acidic hit of tomato.
Chef agreed to send an alternative.
‘Seaside’ Pickled Cockles, Mussels and Oak Roast Salmon
Marsh Samphire, Sour Cream and Poor Man’s Caviar
A clever, very pleasing mix here. Great coastal flavours dragged from the promenade stall and given a few richer touches with a smoked element and a suggestion of caviar which wouldn’t normally appear in your polystyrene cup… this was nicely presented in a ‘Kilner’ jar. Back on track.
Potted Clatter Dove ‘Royale’, Smoked Bacon Butter, Raisins, Black Truffle Brioche
My favourite. Let's forget that silly old ‘caviar’ business - this was truly more indulgent. Smoked butter was far thicker than expected... and all the better for that. Hidden chunks of bacon were awfully welcome. Wood pigeon was delicately rich and balanced out by sharp raisins. Is the fecund aroma of truffle on sweet brioche a step too far? Absolutely not… why stop short of complete and utter seduction?
‘Two Chefs’ Braised Pig Cheek Cottage Pie, Smoked Mashed Potato, Marmite Glazed Carrots
Almost a roaring success. This reads as a crowd-pleaser but, apart from the smashing carrots*, the other elements' flavour and seasoning were disappointingly weak and underplayed. So nearly there.
* I take little heed of you Marmite haters.
Tandoori Pheasant, Spiced Squash, Mango Purée, Fennel, Peanuts and Raisins
Again we had all the ingredients and recipe ideas for a treat. Again the flavours which should have come from spices were almost absent. The meat was dry and it didn't help that any suggestion of hot, smoky tandoor cooking was also missing. Our taste buds were not jaded... we were perfectly ready for further challenge.
Crumbed Black Pudding and Mustard Mayonnaise
This was our replacement for the calamari catastrophe. No real frills here but the earthiness of the pudding was given a wake-up call with just the right attack from mustard. The crumb joined in and formed a trio of well-judged textures. Simple, generous and tasty.
Admiral Collingwood Cheese, Landlord’s Pickle
Most cheeses hit the spot in some way. This was no exception. We’d enjoyed the pickle over at Harome on our last visit. It was lovely to make friends again.
Yorkshire Rhubarb ‘n’ Ginger Upside Down Cheesecake
Not the strongest of finishes. Our main concern was the titchy amount of rhubarb. I couldn't identify much ginger. There was a 'cakey' crumb on top but the 'cheesy' section was replaced with a melted custard ice cream. All a tad confused. And the cold numbed any little flavour which might have been there.
Trebbiano di Romagna, Le Coste Poderi, 2014
Wines are usually reliable from 'Pernshire' and our white didn't disappoint. Driving duty restraints limited our exploration here but the rest of the list looks as sound as expected. There is also a generous ginfest for those so inclined.
All in all a bit of a bumpy ride. We have only enjoyed sheer delight at the flagship (mothership?) Star Inn but I recognise that Mr. P's is a different beast. I would certainly return here but probably not risk the 'surprises' which were sprung upon us. Most of the items were available to choose from the main menu. I'm sure you could find enough to enjoy on a more personally controlled basis. And, as was made clear, the responsive, professional kitchen is perfectly willing and able to compensate for any occasional weakness.
I'm not here to put you off. Walk around the quirky interior (between courses or on your way to the loo) but be prepared to focus on the food. York has so much to offer and, when all is said and done, Mr. P's holds out the prospect of city centre eating well above average.
Many thanks to our server, Perrie, who provided confident and reassuring advice and acted as a very diplomatic go-between with the kitchen when things weren't quite right.