York is looking very festive right now. The tree in St Helen’s Square is dressed in tasteful white fairy lights, more lights are festooned across Stonegate and decorated wooden huts line Parliament Street, enough to get us into the spirit for a Christmas Candlelit Evening at DeClare’s cool café on Peter Lane.
If you don’t know it, it’s a real find hidden away down a dark little side street but a great city centre shopping stop for brunch and lunch with a menu of meat and cheese platters, salads, soups, sandwiches and a dish of the day invariably with a hefty Spanish twist. The cakes are worth stopping off for at any time with the likes of chocolate and Guinness cake, Seville orange cake and Santiago tart (of which more later).
An evening do is a bit of a novelty and a chance for chef Sally Duncan to break out a bit. I can report she did brilliantly. Three courses and a glass of fizz for £25 sounded like cracking good value and so it proved. We started with a dish of fabulously crunchy Marcona almonds (I’ll be calling in at De Clare’s deli on Lendal for a bag of those) and a dish of manzanilla and tiny arbequina olives.
From a choice of four dishes at each course we went for a seasonal chestnut soup with truffle oil and walnut bread and a platter of Spanish meats that included some lovely Serrano ham and alejandro chorizo. Our mains were cod with pancetta and puy lentils and a superb mushroom, tarragon and blue cheese pie, loads of vegetables and to finish that delectable Santiago tart: ground almonds, quince paste and sherry. Ole.
The next Christmas Candlelit Evening is this weekend: 9th/10th December. 1 Peter Lane, York. For tickets phone 01904 652920