El­e­gant com­fort food and su­perla­tive ser­vice make this a din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence not to be missed in York

BBC Good Food - - Contents - @naylor-tony

Good Food’s restau­rant critic en­joys el­e­gant, ad­ven­tur­ous food and su­perla­tive ser­vice at Skosh in York

Three memorable things oc­curred at Skosh be­fore I had eaten my first mouth­ful. Firstly, I was taken with the man­ager’s easy, ironic riff­ing on the awk­ward­ness of tak­ing some­one’s coat. ‘The very thing that should be hos­pitable sud­denly makes you feel rushed,’ he smiled, as Mrs N tan­gled her­self up in her jacket like Frank Spencer.

Then, af­ter plac­ing an emer­gency toastie or­der to pla­cate a small child (my own, I should add), the same bloke re­turned, un­prompted, with ketchup for Naylor 2.0. Call me a bad par­ent, but that’s what I call ser­vice. Fi­nally, when the wait­ress came to take our or­der she re­as­sured us that – HAL­LELU­JAH! – Skosh’s glo­be­trot­ting small plates would ar­rive not, as is com­mon, in one over­whelm­ing, speed-eat­ing splurge, but sensibly stag­gered. The cold dishes came first, hot ones in the next wave. We added oth­ers ad hoc. Memo to all restau­rants: this is how you do small plates. Ev­i­dently this is a restau­rant where the small de­tails re­ally do mat­ter. I was im­me­di­ately at ease in this mod­est room (all chic greys and mus­tard yel­lows), which ex­udes a re­laxed self-con­fi­dence.

As I passed the kitchen, I heard a chef al­most sigh, ‘oh, that’s gor­geous,’ pre­sum­ably about a col­league’s plat­ing. It makes Gor­don Ram­say’s kitchen tantrums look ridicu­lous. Here is the fu­ture of pro kitchens: en­thu­si­as­tic, calm, sup­port­ive, cere­bral.

Well, bar one dud. I was drool­ing at the prospect of Skosh’s cheese toastie made with the raw-milk, brie-style Baron Bigod and grated truf­fle. It was messy to eat and the pick­led turnip and mus­tard sauce were weak coun­ter­points to its vo­lu­mi­nously earthy flavours. It was heavy-go­ing, where, other­wise, Neil Bentinck’s food is bal­letic in its light-step­ping pre­ci­sion. Un­usu­ally, he is a chef who can de­ploy the zingy in­gre­di­ents of Thai cook­ing (he has worked in East Asian-in­flu­enced Aus­tralian kitchens), as deftly as the clas­si­cal tech­niques he honed at Miche­lin­starred gaffs such as North­cote. Not to men­tion the In­dian flavours in­her­ited from his dad. And all with­out this volatile mix boil­ing over.

Each dish has its own rig­or­ous in­ter­nal logic. Thai-in­spired let­tuce cups of plump, painstak­ingly sea­soned cured sea trout come, amid bursts of lime and fish sauce, in­trigu­ingly laced with faint aniseed notes. Bentinck’s ‘hen’s egg’ – Dale End ched­dar velouté, set yolk, PX sherry gel, mush­room dux­elle, frag­ments of browned cheese-on-toast – is a paramolec­u­lar mas­ter­piece. Beau­ti­fully charred Gali­cian oc­to­pus dis­arms even Mrs N (‘Oc­to­pus? It’s just a rub­bery de­liv­ery ve­hi­cle for other, bet­ter flavours.’), with its weird-but-it-works gar­nishes of jammy black olive caramel and pick­led ar­ti­chokes. Like­wise, a stark white plate of raw tur­bot with del­i­cate white soy and fer­mented turnip is clean, fresh, per­sua­sively dif­fer­ent. In con­trast, with its rich, bor­der­line cheesy brown but­ter hol­landaise, Skosh’s fried chicken is pure filth. And a crispy lamb dish un­folds like a grip­ping TV drama. Each new char­ac­ter – charred hispi, sumac yo­ghurt, pick­led onions – brings a dif­fer­ent di­men­sion to this story. Bentinck’s dishes are clever, dar­ing even, yet ut­terly un­pre­ten­tious in their de­liv­ery of big, com­pelling flavours. He is a very bright tal­ent. I didn’t touch that ketchup once. Hon­est.

Tony Naylor, who lives in Manch­ester, writes reg­u­larly for Restau­rant mag­a­zine and The Guardian.

next month Cargo Cantina, Bris­tol

Where 98 Mick­le­gate, York YO1 6JX 01904 634849 skoshy­ Cost Din­ner for two around £100 Best dish ‘Hen’s egg’ with Dale End ched­dar, mush­room & PX sherry VER­DICT Ace. De­liv­ers some real ‘Oh my Skosh!’ mo­ments

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