Sarah Cotterill hops on the train for a bougie dinner in York
YORK’S food and drink scene has laid roots in Micklegate, creeping into the once relentless row of hair salons, student watering holes and gentlemen’s clubs.
Neil Bentinck’s fusion small plates at Skosh, The Rattle Owl’s classic Yorkshire roasts, Gulp & Graze and The Micklegate Social… even BrewDog’s settled in for the long haul. It’s like Fossgate’s slightly envious older sister. And, strolling down the hill from York train station – with its War of the Roses history and build-up to the August bank holiday Soapbox Challenge – it’s easy to forget the bustle of Leeds. Only here would you spot a medieval cloaked figure complete with sword and velvet tabard (and wireless headphones) on the hottest day of the year.
Florencia practises Zen cooking, a meditative art focusing on beauty and seasonality
Partisan is also very York. The eclectic café and art house selling antique furniture, Monmouth Coffee and the giant Haxby Bakehouse loaves stacked up in the window, its charm is infiltrating. One glimpse of the teal exterior makes me want to wear socks and sandals and homemade earrings and read French literature in the bathtub.
Set up by husband-and-wife Hugo Hildyard and Florencia Clifford in 2016, Partisan caters largely to the vegan brunch and cake crowd, only offering evening meals Thursday to Saturday. Florencia practises Zen cooking, a meditative art focusing on beauty and seasonality, evident as soon as you step through the doorway. During the day, the weathered wooden countertop is laden with rose-scattered sticky buns dribbled with icing, thin fruit-layered polenta slices and fat wild garlic scones. On a night, candles flicker down the long room, every table overflowing with wild flowers. It’s romantic, and the waiters seem to waltz about the diners busy in animated conversation over wine.
Feeling bohemian, we order a bottle of Prosecco, (£20) which comes in a huge ice bucket, swathed in a navy linen napkin. Above us, a tri-part walnut overmantel mirror reflects the marine canvasses balancing on the dado rail opposite. Artists are on a three-monthly rotation, with artwork (and, in fact, every vintage ornament and piece in the place, including the chairs you’re sat on) for sale.
Just as much love has gone in to selecting the local produce for the menu, the majority of which comes from Florencia and Hugo’s Stamford Bridge smallholding. Our starter (£9) of fresh salad leaves, mottled heritage tomatoes, huge capers and gordal olives, slicked with zesty olive oil, would be divine eaten on an allotment deck chair at sunset. Nestled on top, the firm goats cheese-like marinated burratina crumbles on to our Haxby sourdough, served with a mini ramekin of z'atar (£3.50).
Roasted Vadouvan-spiced cauliflower (£17) is charred and chewy in all the right places, with salty curling leaves and crunchy little morsels of toasted freekeh. Underneath, a cashew sauce is rounded and rich, the black plate sprinkled with a sweet coconut dukkah complimenting the brassica’s nuttiness. Stone bass (£19) is cooked wonderfully, its veiny flakes separating over a pumpkin seed gremolata infused with sorrel, which I suspect is also from the garden. The dishes are light, simple and beyond flavourful, but we regret not ordering one of the Ottolenghi-esque sides of fried organic Alouette potatoes or hispi cabbage with whipped Botton Creamery quark.
To finish there’s an option of cakes from the counter or a super-sounding Montgomery Cheddar, quince and biscuits plate. We choose vegan apricot and summer berry crumble, which comes in a long red-handled skillet, and chilled custard (£7). The crumb is so tiny it’s potentially cough inducing, probably down to the lack of cementing butter. My Earl Grey prune and marmalade frangipane (£6.50) is on the most linear sliver of pastry, tickled with rosemary and hugged with snow white mascarpone.
Looking to celebrate a milestone or simply show a friend how much you care, Partisan is an elegant, creative little caf worth knowing about.
Partisan, 112 Micklegate, York, YO1 6JX
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Haxby Bakehouse bread 9, marinated buratina 9, cauliflower 9, stone bass 8, vegan crumble 6, Earl Grey frangipane 7
Special occasion or just a bougie night out