Food 2018 – Dyls, Skosh, York

Friday, 6th July 2018 – Dyls, Skosh, York

We started the evening by stopping off at Dyls to test their cocktail list. I think it’s fair to say that service is not the fastest, but what you do get for your patience are some excellent concoctions. I went for the ‘Black Bottle’ Berry Lemonade, made with Black Bottle Scotch whisky, prosecco, blackberry jam, fresh lemon and topped off with soda, which was very refreshing after a hot, sticky day sightseeing. It was also very pretty, though personally I think I would have liked slightly more of the jam. It’s one I might try and recreate at home.

Lynne opted for a Dark and Duppy, which I’m assuming is a variant of a Dark and Stormy, this a blend of Duppy Jamaican rum, Kraken Spiced rum, freshly muddled limes, ginger ale and a scattering of fresh ginger, served in the ever present jam jar, and giving quite a kick from all that ginger.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to try any of the other drinks, given how long the first one had taken to arrive. We did have a small bowl of pistachio nuts to nibble, though we’d originally ordered the smoked almonds; these had run out so a second choice it had to be. In fairness to Dyls it’s a very small bar/kitchen and I have no idea how they manage to do what they do out of such a tiny space. The staff are lovely if somewhat disorganised, but we weren’t in a hurry so it didn’t matter too much.

Our drinks finished we headed off over the river, seeking out Skosh, an establishment on which much praise has been heaped since it opened around a year ago. Jay Rayner, a restaurant critic I admire, and with whom I’m normally in agreement, raved about it, as have others. With that in mind I booked a table well in advance because I really didn’t want us to miss out.

It’s a very unassuming place from the outside, looking more like a daytime café than a restaurant with a very ambitious and assured kitchen. We were slightly early but a quick reshuffle by front of house staff soon had us seated slap bang in the middle of the room, with a good view of the open kitchen and of our fellow diners, all of them seemingly enjoying what was put in front of them. It didn’t take us long to see their point.

We had a look at the wine list which is smart, imaginative and very good value for money, with pretty much all the wines available by the glass, the carafe or the bottle, and nothing costing more than £40. That’s pretty unusual for a start off, as if the presence of white port on the aperitif list. I can’t recall the last time I saw that in the UK. We had no choice but to order one each of the Nieport ‘White Rabbit’.

We had a long, hard study of the menu and decided on a couple of small plates to start with, waiting to see how big they turned out to be before ordering anything else. We both had to have the hen’s egg, which is basically a frothy concoction of egg white, a lovely almost set yolk, chunks of toasted Dale End Cheddar cheese, and, in the bottom of the egg cups, a gloriously sweet and savoury and earthy mix of mushrooms stewed in PX sherry. I briefly considered just ordering another half dozen eggs and not bothering with anything else!

We mopped up the egg remains with a slice or two of lovely house sourdough, which also had a tub of acorn dairy butter with some crunchy crumbs of ‘gunpowder’ spice to mix in with it.

We also shared a pair of Goosnargh duck spring rolls, which were served with an emulsion of elderflower and ginger vinegar that required more bread to not leave anything behind. They were wonderfully meaty and given a lift by the vinegar, proving that sharp can work just as well as sweet to cut through the fattiness of duck meat.

We drank a carafe of a light, fresh Casal Mendes rose, Vinho da Mesa, from Portugal with the first round and then went back to studying the menu again, this time with fish in mind. When it came to fish, the idea of a cods’ roe eclair was sufficiently intriguing that we had to go for them, served as they were with thinly sliced pickled cucumber and wasabi pearls. The wasabi was very restrained, and the cods’ roe itself was like the smoothest, most intense taramasalata imaginable. Lynne had nipped off to the Ladies’ when the dish arrived and I had to work very hard to stop myself from scarfing both of them while she was  gone. They were almost as brilliant as the egg and despite the physical differences, we were starting to see similarities between what was happening here and what we ate at Victor’s Fine Dining in Germany last year with the emphasis on mixing local cuisine with Japanese influences.

We also shared the east coast lobster, with marinated slices of incredibly finely cut kohlrabi, little blobs of satay sauce that exploded in the mouth, and some sweet and juicy compressed watermelon. The lobster was fabulous, sweet and moist and perfectly done, and the creamy sauce with it was light and delicious.

As for the hake with pickled lemon and a green chilli aioli, with shredded sorrel and fennel, it was a stunner of a dish. Rich in flavour, with perfectly cooked fish. The kitchen is calm, quiet and clearly the people in there know exactly what they are doing, the precision of the cooking is amazing.

With the fish we went for a carafe of 2016 Gruner Veltliner, Josef Ehmoser, from Wagram in Austria. Very lovely it was too, just fruity enough to stand up to the food, just dry enough not to be cloying. And having got that far it was time to consider the menu one last time, with meat in view. This took us to the rather more expensive end of the short list of options, but was still providing excellent value along with excellent food. The beef tartare Caesar toast, with artichoke tsukemono (a form of Japanese pickled vegetables). The toast was crisp, redolent of Parmesan cheese, and the beef was soft, still recognisably beef rather than having been reduced to pulpy mince by the preparation process. This, as I say, is a very smart kitchen.

Also excellent was the crisp lamb belly with courgette, pickled onions and pomegranate, the lamb two succulent squares under a pile of onions and courgette strips. It went brilliantly with the pomegranate seeds and yogurt that ringed the plate. I’d have liked more of the lamb, though I didn’t need it by this stage, especially as we had a vegetable dish as well.

And for the vegetable, there they went with the Japanese touches again, this time in the shape of an aubergine ‘katsu’, a thick aubergine slice cooked to softness with a scattering of crispy onion, sitting on a pool of curry sauce with tremendous depth of flavour, and vibrant both in colour and taste. It was accompanied by a long bean kimchi that added punch to the dish in contrast to the soft sweetness of the aubergine and sauce.

We drank a final carafe, this time a Tannat, Pueblo del Sol 2015 from Uruguay, a great choice of wine to go with meats, and of course the grape variety that is also used to make Madiran. It clearly does just as well in South America as it does in south western France, because this was a fabulously jammy, chewy mouthful.

We couldn’t cope with the idea of any more food, either in the shape of the savoury “afters” or the desserts. We settled instead for a glass each of Pedro Ximenez sherry, from Fernando de Castilla, a pleasant way to end a superb meal. If you have the chance to go and eat at Skosh, do it! You can thank me later.

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