‘Have you heard of that Yorkshire pub named world’s best restaurant? It’s run by that Tommy Banks who won the Great British Menu…’ is a common conversation I’ve heard over the past year.
The Black Swan in Oldstead has actually been a firm favourite of our family for over 7 years. Many Christmases, birthdays and celebrations have we spent in that wonderful little pub, tasting the Black Swan’s delicious food and being welcomed like family every time we walked in. Back in 2013 we even remember Tommy’s mum, Anne, explaining how the old head chef was opening his own restaurant and Tommy was to step into his shoes – after just turning 24 years old. Now, just 5 years later, the Black Swan is a Michelin star restaurant and I have just visited their new restaurant, Roots. Talk about an incredible story!
Roots is based right next to the River Ouse in our local city, York, and last weekend we had the pleasure of going to dine there as a Sunday treat. The theme of the restaurant is sharing-plates, and all food is from the Black Swan’s family farm back in Oldstead – delivered everyday. There were two options with the menu. You could either select the dishes you want; we were recommended 4 dishes per person. Or go for the favourites from the team, The Roots Feast, a bit of a tasting menu instead – we went for the second choice. Tommy and his team work around three seasons; The Preservation Season, The Hunger Gap and The Time of Abundance and with these the dishes change as the availability of ingredients alter. Our visit was during The Preservation Season.
A wonderful array of drinks was available on the Root’s drinks menu. I went for a Darjeeling Express, which was an ice tea that tasted like lavender – heavenly! Something which I really appreciate is a restaurant that serves incredible soft drinks, as well as alcoholic. My mum went for her favourite sherry, Pedro Ximenez, Dad a glass of their Rose, and Luke went for a Bird gin and a tonic. I’m not usually a fan of gin – as I have expressed in previous posts – but this gin was so wonderful. This was sweet like lemonade rather than bitter and dry.
One big bread plate arrived with a beautifully bronzed sourdough and a seeded crispy bread, accompanied with Lincolnshire Poacher Custard and Cultured Butter. That custard was to die for! Before I had finished one piece of bread with it smothered over in my mouth, I was creating another concoction of the deliciousness!! I had to stop myself from eating it to save room for our Root’s experience!!
The first dish then arrived – Smoked Eel Doughnuts. Now I hear you… Eel? But let me tell you, smoked eel is one of the most incredible tastes on earth. The smokey taste of the eel matches perfectly to the soft sweet doughnuts. I devoured two of these in a heartbeat.
Next came a beautiful dish of cured trout and ‘Oldstead Piccalli’. The trout was divine, such a fresh taste of fish, accompanied with the delicate pieces of vegetables; this was one of my favourite dishes of the evening and one of the prettiest presentations.
After the fresh tasting trout came the meaty taste of Lamb in Root’s bao dish. Usually, when I have had bao in the past, it has been with pork, but this lamb version was wonderful. The baos themselves were doughy and herby, which sat beautifully around the distinctive earthy taste of lamb. There was pieces of fermented turnip and crispy kale in addition, which took this dish to the next level.
Falafel can sometime be done very dry and unpleasant. However, this sour pea falafel with pork fat and carrots was absolutely mouthwatering. Encapsulating the sweet ripe taste of pea with the juicy pork fat was wonderful. I could have devoured a lot more of these morsels!
This dish is one that I have had before (and loved) at the Bank’s Black Swan restaurant. Crapaudine Beetroot cooked slowly in Beef Fat – or in other words, scrumptious. The slice has the amazing earthy taste of beetroot, accompanied with the succulent flavour of beef. The texture was chewy deliciousness. On the top the slice was decorated with pickled discs of yellow and red beetroot, with some creamy goat’s curd and linseed cracker. A perfect dish.
In honesty, this was my least favourite dish, it acted more of a cleanser for the pallet. Being dressed in sheep’s yoghurt, cured egg yolk and hazelnuts, the kale dishes taste was very fresh and green.
Halibut, Broccoli, and Smoked Bacon and Mussel Sauce. The halibut was succulently sweet, and gently crisp on the edge of the flakes of fish. The broccoli was presented in three ways, each complimenting the fish and salty pancetta beautifully. This is without a doubt, the best dish from Roots.
Ox Cheek, Cauliflower and Kale. One word – Amazing, The rich meaty taste of the ox cheek was complimented by the creamy cauliflower, krispy kale and tangy taste of cheese. The cheek fell apart within an instant of touching it with my cutlery; cooked to utter perfection.
White Chocolate, Douglas fir and Lemon Verbena. This dish was like a mouthful of Christmas – and in a magical way. Tommy has a real skill with Douglas fir. If you remember his Great British Menu dessert in memory of his Grandfather had a strong fir aspect in it, also it’s a popular dessert at the Black Swan. The white chocolate was a brilliant texture, and the crisp biscuit gave the dish that bit of bite.
This final dish was absolutely splendid – Carrot and Chicory Root Tiramisu. The carrot taste that almost reached tones of chocolate orange in it’s sweetness. The chewy caramel-like base in the bottom was the cherry on top. I’d happily not ever have a chocolate dessert ever again, after eating this wonderful bowl of pure genius.
Overall, the experience was fantastic. From the welcoming service to the outstanding food, Roots is a must for anyone who calls themselves a foodie.
To dine at Roots under the ‘The Roots Feast’ menu it costs £50pp, a very reasonable price for some of the finest food in Yorkshire. The feel is more relaxed than Black Swan, and if stands in good competition to other quality restaurants within the ancient walls of York. I can’t wait to return!