Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine
Platters to spin
The difficulty in getting a table at Pairings Wine Bar, York, bears testament to just how this place has moved on since the last time I reviewed it, though to be fair, it hadn’t long been open then. Unfortunately, the only table we could get this time around was at 6pm, and it was made clear it had to be handed back at 8.
Much as this conveyer belt approach annoys me, I get the need for it with small independent operators having to maximise their offer. But not all handle this as well as the staff at Pairings. Having been here recently with a group of friends, we overran our slot, and despite our overzealous pleading for a little more time, the staff managed us well with smiles and apologies all around as they tipped us out into Castlegate. Clearly, I forgave them as I was back just two weeks later, this time with my eye on the clock.
Pairings is a wine bar with a staggering list of drinks, and not surprisingly, an impressive wine list. There’s page after page of curated wines grouped by colour and style, from crisp and light to robust and heavy, and everything in between. It would be easy to feel intimidated by the depth and breadth on offer, but they do not let that happen as they want their customers to enjoy the experience, so help and guidance are on hand when needed or asked for.
But, of course, so much will depend on what you want from your visit, there’s no need for a full-on wine pairing; you can go the whole hog or, as we did, simply enjoy a glass or two of your favourite wine.
I may have flirted easily with the wine list, but I struggled with the food, as I wanted every one of the dishes on the small plates menu and most of the more substantial boards and platters on offer. The food here is carefully sourced to show off some of the best meats, cheeses and condiments in Yorkshire, with names such as Lishman’s, Wensleydale, Voakes Pies, Yorkshire Chorizo
and Haxby Bakehouse; it then moves out of the county, across the UK and into Europe. We called for help at this point, or our two hours would have been swallowed up just trying to order.
We set off with a bowl of thick, creamy hummus with Haxby sourdough and crunchy vegetables, plus a salad of roast beetroot, Ashlynn goat’s cheese, lamb’s lettuce and walnuts with an olive oil and honey dressing. Then we ordered the ultimate deli platter for two, where we both got to choose; me the cheese, him the meats. Other choices could have been a Yorkshire or Mediterranean board, vegetarian and vegan and an ultimate cheese platter for two to three people.
Our platter was groaning with food. There was a whole pork pie, thick slices of tender ham, and a dish of soft, fatty, lightly spiced duck rillettes, which, when spread over the sourdough, was easily my favourite of the night. We had three hefty pieces of cheese, a soft, fruity taleggio, a 90-day cave-aged Manchego and Yorkshire Blue. There was more bread, crackers, fat green olives, chutney and cornichons. As someone who loves to graze and share food, this was simply perfect for me; it is such a friendly, sociable way of eating.
I stayed out of the dessert choices, doubting I could eat another thing, but that went out of the window when a trio of miniature puddings arrived. A glass of superb rich dark chocolate mousse and an apple and blackberry crumble tart with cherry compote were irresistible. However, the only part of the whole meal that didn’t hit the mark was a rhubarb and pistachio panna cotta, which was a little overset though still tasty.
Pairings is owned and run by sisters Kelly and Kate, who, when growing up, knew they wanted to be in business together. At Pairings, each sister has brought their skills literally to the table, Kelly with the wine, and Kate with the business acumen. As a result, the place feels personal, relaxing and cared for, and the staff are great. I love that Kate and Kelly have taken away so much of the formality and pretension around food and wine pairing. Even though wine bars or food and wine matching are nothing new – far from it – these two had a vision for their business, and by sticking to that, they have created something very special in York.
■ Pairings Wine Bar, 28 Castlegate, York YO1 9RP, tel: 01904 848909, email: email@example.com. Open: Sunday to Thursday, 12pm-11pm, Friday to Saturday, 11am-midnight.
As someone who loves to graze and share food, this was simply perfect for me.