Don’t discount chain restaurants. Granted, some are far from desirable or glamorous places to eat out, but Piccolino York is a prime example of a chain restaurant that maintains a level of class and service to rival some of the swanky independent eateries in the City and beyond.
I have to confess that this was my first ever visit to Piccolino. I guess this was a good thing though – I had no particular preconceptions or past experiences of their restaurants prior to my arrival on a particularly wet Saturday afternoon in York.
I love York and I love Italian food, so on paper this was already my kind of day out. The restaurant itself sits in an enviable position on Bridge Street overlooking the river Ouse. York has a well-established, vibrant food and drinks scene but not many places come with the promise of river views during your lunch do they?
I received a warm welcome by the front of house team and was shown to one of the large red leather booths occupying an entire side of the restaurant.
First impressions of Piccolino York
Really smart! It’s a large dining area with high ceilings which sometimes can lead to an ‘empty’ feeling but that wasn’t the case. It all felt rather grand to be honest with you. I was kindly offered an Aperitivo of prosecco accompanied by some giant Apulian Cerignola olives whilst checking out their very extensive menu. They clearly take pride in the provenance and quality of the ingredients used throughout their restaurants, utilising artisan producers of seasonally available meat, fish, cheese, vegetables and herbs. I like that, they could probably use cheaper producers (as some restaurants do) but this is often evident in the quality and taste of the food coming out of the kitchen.
I’m a big fan of seafood so decided to start off with some Colchester rock oysters. Presented beautifully in a large ice-bowl with lemon, hot sauce and the chef’s own Bloody Mary sauce, these were simply perfect. The oysters were creamy, salty and their bold flavour held up impressively alongside the rich, tangy Bloody Mary sauce. Oysters certainly aren’t for everyone but don’t knock them until you’ve tried them I say…
Deciding that I was in the mood for a bit of surf and turf today, I opted for the Spring Creek Ranch ribeye steak for my main course. Admittedly I was sucked in by the promise of beef finished on a natural barley diet for 150 days and pasture raised in Alberta, Canada. On the side I kept it simple with some zucchine fritte and tenderstem broccoli tossed with chilli and garlic. This steak totally lived up to the hype, it was cooked perfectly (I like medium-rare) and really delivered when it came to packing that flavour-punch that only a very good quality piece of beef can do. Yes, it’s a little bit more costly than the other cuts on the menu but I feel that this is an instance where it’s money well spent.
I love a good recommendation so decided to ask my server to help me out when it came to choosing a dessert. I was signposted towards the crema Catalana – a Catalan style crème brûlée served with baked hazelnut biscotti. It was decadent, creamy and perfectly sweet without being too heavy. I decided to pair this with a Moscato dessert wine which balanced out the richness of the crema Catalana with some light, floral notes and fresh fruit flavours. It was the perfect end to a particularly good dining experience and if I’m honest one that truly surprised me.
I think I made the poor assumption that chain restaurants don’t have the same charm or appeal as independent restaurants. Or that maybe the quality becomes diluted in some way. Piccolino York disproves this assumption entirely, and I will certainly be visiting again. I hope you do too, you won’t be disappointed.
18 Bridge St, York YO1 6DA
Menu/bookings at: piccolinorestaurants.com
Tel: 01904 521155