Le Langhe, York
Le Langhe is one of our all time favourites. It sits comfortably in our top ten restaurants in Yorkshire with no apology. To begin with, it has a gloriously extravagant deli: cheeses, cured meats, white onions, Sicilian lemons, beefsteak tomatoes, great bread and much more of that sort of thing.
If you crave Italian black or white truffles and you’re feeling flush then this is the spot. And now, since its move from Goodramgate, it’s evolved into a seriously good Italian restaurant.
To eat here you must head to the back of the shop to the airy dining room, go outdoors in benign weather or to the cosy upstairs when it’s busy. The good value lunchtime menu is artfully simple: a plate of cheeses, a plate of cured meats, pasta, salads, a dish or two of the day. It sounds pretty mainstream Italian but what lies at the heart of Le Langhe are superb ingredients given the lightest of touches.
That touch is supplied by Otto Bocca. Talented, uncompromising and mercurial, Otto rules the kitchen where his instinct is for simple, perfectly executed dishes.
Tasting menus generally leave me cold. Too many courses, too many itsy bits but here it’s worth having for its sustained deliciousness over four small, manageable courses at lunch, (£24.50) six in the evening (£39). You might start with polenta with gorgonzola and black summer truffles, follow with crab pasta and then a main of roast quail with porcini mushrooms finishing with chocolate and hazelnut torte and pistachio ice cream and then cheese.
The wine list is as originally sourced as the food: a collection of distinctive Italian wines from small vineyards but with an accessible starting point of £17.50 for a Gavi rising to £400 for a 1985 Omellia.
With so much commitment in the kitchen it’s a shame that service can be so variable. Down the years it’s ricocheted between polite and professional to chaotic and close to rude. We’ve been given one shocking report and their cavalier attitude to vegetarians also needs repair. A newly appointed front of house manager promises a smoother ride but in the meantime – like the rude service in some Chinese restaurants – we can only suggest laughing it off and enjoying what we think is utterly terrific food.