There are not many places that I visit and think, I wish I owned this. In fact, off the top of my head I can count three. Mr P’s Curious Tavern is one of them. I walk through the door and I see cute and cosy interior, a man carving from a Jamon leg and a gin bar. I’m home! I love the details in the venue, down to the paper coasters, the stack of old books on the bar and the beautiful gin glasses. It wasn’t until I sat down and saw the menu that I realised this was an Andrew Pern venture, and then I got really excited!
The decor is cosy and homely but with a trendy twist. The small bar area downstairs is a place where you could spend hours on a chilly winter afternoon. The atmosphere provides a peaceful escape from the busy streets of York in any weather, however I see this little diamond glittering in the winter.
I dropped in on a Saturday lunchtime with friends, originally just looking for a good gin, but became sucked in by the tempting menu. We decided to have a couple of dishes each, it’s not the cheapest of menus. I had the Hand-dived Scallop, Scrumpy Reduction, Celeriac, Fresh Black Truffle and Steak Tartare, Smoked Bacon & ‘HP Ripple’ Ice Cream, Fried Bread ‘Sprinkles’. It took me a while to decide as everything sounded tempting and limiting my decision to two dishes was no easy task. Slightly easier though, than choosing from the extensive Gin list! I opted for a Herno Old Tom, beautiful.
The service was slow, despite it not being ridiculously busy. The waiter explained the tapas system where dishes are brought out as they are ready, so we expected that we would not all be eating at the same time and we were okay with this. At least we thought we were. There were a couple of occasions where despite knowing the system, we still checked that certain dishes were coming, as the wait seemed to drag on longer than we expected. We waited so long for my friend’s final dish that the rest of us asked for the bill and my friend considered cancelling it so that we could all leave. We chased it up and waited another ten minutes before the dish arrived and my friend had to eat alone while we waited. Not a great experience. On saying that, they did take the cost of the last dish off the bill. I thought this element of their customer service was spot on. We timed it quite badly as the waiters that served us were new to the job and didn’t know the menu well at all. I would have preferred all waiting staff to be better briefed and to have experienced the menu. A man working behind the bar, however, seemed very knowledgeable and passionate about the bar products. A rare but necessary element of a thriving bar.
There is no doubt that the food is good quality and the menu is fairly unique. The presentation is immaculate and each dish was welcomed by my party with oohs and ahhhs. In terms of value for money, it depends how you do it I think. I felt that I had paid a lot of money, experienced some beautiful food but left hungry. My scallop dish, for example, tasted beautiful but cost £9.50 for two scallops. Having eaten in many Michelin starred restaurants, I’m used to small portions, however I’ve never left a tasting menu hungry. Mr P’s do offer a tasting menu and I think perhaps this is the way to go. At least go when you can afford to splash out a bit and get a few dishes each to fill up on. In terms of a quick lunch, I would opt for something cheaper and more filling, like the charcuterie boards with bread.
What would I change?
Not much really is my answer.
Ensure that the staff have tried each dish on the menu so that they can recommend effectively. Staff passion encourages customer passion
Improve speed of service and make sure that waiting staff communicate efficiently between the kitchen and the customer, chasing up dishes and checking that the customer is informed.
Would I return?….Yes. Big fat yes. The place is quite new and the staff are getting to grips with it all. Once the staff are in a position to guide customers and recommend dishes that suit their budget and time allowance, I struggle to think how a customer could leave here unhappy. Personally, I can’t wait to return.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, you can no longer go in Mr P’s curious tavern for just a drink, due to their license. I’m sure you could just get a snack, sharing board or tapas style dish to make up for the food bit. It’s a bit disappointing if you wanted to pop in for a decent Gin.