This is as close to perfect as it gets
Shrouded in ancient heritage and folklore, there’s no denying that York is of significant historical importance, but it could really do with getting off its high horse a bit. This is a city that, until recently, required buskers to audition before a judging panel. Civil servant Simon Cowells, deciding which teenagers were worthy of singing Ed Sheeran covers outside Betty’s Tea Rooms.
Have they completely missed the fact that their preciously-conserved core is now plastered by all the hallmarks high street homogeny? The city whose streets once famously inspired JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley is now about as spellbinding as King’s Cross station. For every place who’s doing something interesting, different, or grassroots (And don’t get me wrong, there are many: Le Cochon Aveugle, House of The Trembling Madness, Evil Eye, El Piano) there’s a dozen Turtle Bays, Carluccio's, and any number of places you’d kill time while waiting for your departure from Platform 9 ¾.
The city whose streets once famously inspired JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley is now about as spellbinding as King’s Cross station.
Things recently got depressingly meta when Warner Bros. opened a fully licensed Harry Potter merchandise shop on the Shambles, because you would, wouldn’t you?
Micklegate is only ten minutes away, but literally a bridge too far for the majority of tourist footfall. Even the ones who make it over Ouse Bridge having resisted the temptation of a riverside Yates’ are neatly swept up by Cosmo and Piccolino. Just a little further up, next door to the impeccably-stocked Falcon Tap, is Skosh.
Going by name and appearances, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for a Scandi furniture shop: tables the colour of driftwood bob in the greyscale dining room, with a hazmat-yellow tiled wall providing the backdrop to an open kitchen.
You can sit at the stainless steel bar overlooking if you like, which on reflection seems like a brilliant way to spend a few voyeuristic hours, watching the chefs prepare dishes that borrow from all over the world: Middle Eastern lavash, tandoori-spiced Galician octopus, dim sum-style roast pork bun with pak choi kimchi.
A cheery waiter talks us through the menu and advises that we order all at once rather than dish by dish - it’s Father's’ Day and a few larger bookings might mean big waits for small plates if we dither. Mercifully the dishes are paired into something resembling courses by the kitchen, so that our roast pork bun comes out with the tomato and tofu - their version of that most of-the-moment, Baader-Meinhof of salads.
Some dishes are bigger than others. Baked hake practically serves as an old-timey suitcase covered in souvenir stickers boasting of its travels: a miso glaze from Japan, Egyptian dukkah, all set to an earthy hum of a cauliflower-rice risotto, which isn’t anywhere near as Hemsley & Hemsley as it sounds.
You might feel the need for their trademark purging after binging on Skosh’s fried chicken though: thigh meat brined in buttermilk for tenderness and a slight lactic tang, deep-fried until audibly crisp and craggy. If Chicken Connoisseur met these on road he’d be forced to hang up his Air Max for good. A pool of brown butter hollandaise is given moussey lightness from passing through a nitrous oxide canister and leaves me gobsmacked while I gather my thoughts. I’ve had chance to gather them now, and they all point to this being my favourite thing I’ve eaten all year.
A Texel lamb kebab is fine as far as skewered chunks of lamb go, but it’s lacking that bit of “Skosh flair” that so much else here possesses. It’s great quality meat, but at sixteen quid for a literal pita-full amount, it’s pound-for-pound the most expensive lamb since Damien Hirst’s Away From The Flock was auctioned off.
It’s not all premium upgrades of takeaway food: the “hens egg” snack is one of the restaurant's signature dishes, placed in inverted commas that, used on posh menus, might as well be a great big winking emoji.
Those two small punctuation marks grant all sorts of artistic license: what you get is a ceramic egg, layered inside with cheddar foam, a creamy yolk, bits of crispy cheddar, sauteed mushroom, and Pedro Ximenez sherry reduction in the bottom. It’s not so much an egg as the distilled essence of rarebit, which isn’t a sentence I thought I’d bash into my keyboard today.
This is mirrored at the other end of the menu in “Cone & Popsicle”, a dessert with “flavours” of gooseberry and tonka. “Flavours of” is fancy menu talk for when a chef fastidiously reconfigures and recontextualises an ingredient, like Marge Simpson with a Chanel suit. In this case its seasonal gooseberry, and tonka (the vanilla-tobacco-bubblegum flavoured bean which wouldn’t be out of place in Bertie Botts’ gaff) that are reworked into foams, ice creams, chocolates and jams for miniature gourmet Cornettos and Magnums.
Our other dessert, bhapa doi (criminally undersold to us as “steamed yoghurt”) is a hot mess of cardamom meringue shards, strawberries, jelly, pistachio sponge, and who knows what else. I’d complained just days before about desserts of curated ingredients being “a bit boring now”, words I gladly devoured between heaped spoonfuls of this interpretation of trifle.
This balance of cheffy and accessible, as well as the dynamism and breadth of influences are what make Skosh so appealing, while at the same time so difficult to summarise.
“Where shall we go for dinner?”
“What do they do?”
Actually, here’s your summary: York may cling to its history, but this is a thoroughly modern restaurant, and about as close to perfect as that gets.
Karma Cola £3
Lemony Lemonade £3
2 x ‘Hens Egg’ £6
Cauliflower pakoras £4.5
Isle of Wight tomatoes, tofu £5.5
Skosh fried chicken £6
Poggio Anima Pecorino 125ml £4.2
Roasted pork bun £5.5
Truffled jersey royals £7.2
Baked hake £15
Texel lamb kebab £16
Gran Passione rosso 125ml £4.8
Bhapa doi £7.5
Cone & popsicle £8
Brewed coffee £3.5
Address: 98 Micklegate, York, YO1 6JX
Hens Egg 9, Cauliflower pakora 7, Tomato & tofu 7.5, Fried chicken 10, Pork bun 9, Jersey royals 7, Hake 8.5, Lamb 8, Bhapa doi 9.5, Cone & popsicle 9
Ardent and effortlessly knowledgeable, confident to make recommendations
Cool without ever feeling like it’s ‘too cool for the likes of *you*’