We have lived around a 20 minute walk / 7 minute cycle from the centre of York for almost three years now.
Even during our first few weeks in the house, we took full and unadulterated advantage of our close proximity to most of York's thriving food and drink scene.
(We lived for almost two months without a working oven or hob, the worst two months of my life...)
Having tried most of what the city has to offer when it comes to food, I was intrigued when an invitation came our way for the launch of the new menu at The Park Restaurant at Marmadukes Town House Hotel*.
The hotel is actually half way between our house and the city centre. To be honest I felt a little ashamed that such a place had slipped under our radar for so long.
I was therefore extremely keen to see whether the Park Restaurant could be a viable fine dining alternative that little bit closer to home.
Situated down a quiet residential street off of one of York's oldest routes (the road of Bootham dates from the Roman period, where it was the main route out of the city to the North), the hotel is well placed for any traveller or diner who wishes to be within walking distance of the city, but also that little bit removed from the hustle and bustle of the centre.
Upon speaking to the staff, it was clear that this is a hotel and a restaurant, not a hotel with a restaurant. The food offering here is not a secondary consideration, but a serious and carefully thought out endeavour.
The intimate dining room has approximately only 20 covers, meaning that the kitchen is never overwhelmed. Diners are able to get dedicated attention from the waiting staff, who all seemed to be passionate foodies upon close interrogation, I mean conversation...
It was also very encouraging to hear that the clientele at The Park consist of a healthy mix of regular local residents and tourists (to attract repeat custom is no mean feat in this city).
Led by head chef Adam Jackson, of Black Swan fame, the kitchen certainly aims high with its menu composition, presentation and expertly chosen ingredients.
We sampled a number of small plates, indulging a gorgeous Japanese Sea Trout Tartare, which was paired with an activating, but not too fiery wasabi paste.
The rest of the dishes we tried certainly lived up to this excellent first impression.
I'm going to take a second here to talk about bread, because a. I love bread, b. this was the best bread In have ever had (bar a trip to Turkey where we bought fresh, still warm, egg-soft bread every morning from the boot of an elderly man's old rusty Ford).
Soft and almost pastry like with lashings of butter, this bread alone is reason enough for me to go back. Lashings of pate made it only more heavenly and decidedly decadent.
A small taster of cucumber gazpacho with sea trout also set our tongues ablaze, despite the fact that the presentation almost made it too dainty to eat.
Whilst sitting in the garden we managed to snaffle a small teasing dessert taster. Unfortunately we didn't quite catch the full explanation of the dish, but it was a refreshing combination of strawberries and mint served with silky soft ice-cream.
As we were already in the building, I took a second to have a quick nosy about.
The hotel is both luxurious and homely, with a nicely appointing sitting room and small bar area, perfect for relaxing with and catching up with old friends.
The real hidden gem however comes in the form of a beautiful small garden area, which even comes complete with what looked like a sauna.
Des and I were both very impressed with the interesting and dynamic dishes we tasted during the evening. We also loved the intimacy of the light and airy dining room and surrounding rooms.
In fact, we liked it so much that we have resolved to head back and try the tasting menu in the coming month or so (£60pp, with wine package £48pp). I am very excited by the prospect of the wine pairings, which I have it on good authority are rather excellently done!
*Our meal and drinks were complimentary, however my opinion is my own, as always.