MAXINE GORDON visits Star Inn the City following its recent fire

IT was somewhat ironic that there was smoke billowing around the entrance of Star Inn the City when we visited last Saturday evening.

We had come to review Andrew Pern’s popular riverside restaurant following a fire in the kitchen which had caused a four-month closure for repairs.

Not that you would notice. Nothing seemed out of place or particularly different from previous visits. Just that smoke at the entrance, which was coming from an outside log fire.

The smoke was unpleasant and followed us into the lovely airy main restaurant, catching in the throat and making me cough. Hopefully they can move the fire away from the entrance.

If you go to Star Inn the City, the main, glass panelled restaurant is where you want to sit. There are tables in the bar area and on the upstairs mezzanine, but they are second best compared to this atrium of light with floor-to-ceiling windows. There is a large terrace too, perfect for sunny days and summer nights, with great views onto the Ouse.

Like any decent chef, Pern likes to offer the best of local produce at his venues (besides the Star Inn the City, he has Mr P’s Curious Tavern in York’s Petergate; Star Inn the Harbour, Whitby, and the Michelin-starred Star Inn at Harome). Expect to find local fish and seafood as well as the finest regional meats on the menu. Vegetarians do not fare so well, but at least the handful of veggie dishes listed are helpfully highlighted in green type, so are easy to spot.

And to be fair, my daughter’s veggie starter was outstanding: a 5/5 dish and the tastiest thing we sampled on our visit.

Pern likes a play on words and enjoys a twist on tradition too. Both are indulged in the wonderful "nosotto" – a risotto dish made with soft cubes of sweet potato instead of rice, flavoured with a pesto made from wild garlic and a rich cheese sauce featuring smoked Wensleydale, topped with roasted hazelnuts. At £9 it was a bit pricey for a starter, but if you chose this alongside some bread or a side of vegetables it would made an adequate main course.

My daughter used some of the extra bread I ordered for my starter to scoop up the dreamy sauce, which was luxurious in its flavours, with a sweet creaminess winning out over any smokiness from the cheese. I'd come back just to have this all to myself.

In contrast, my starter of dressed Whitby crab with smoked salmon mousse was decent, but no rival. Served in a glass, the balance was more in favour of the smooth salmon mousse than crab (which I would have liked more of for the price of £14). It was topped with mini crunchy pickled cucumbers which I loved, but I was not too keen on the two triangles of toasted brioche served alongside. They were too sweet and also not adequate for the amount of pate and crab (why do restaurants always get this wrong?) and I had to request some extra bread, which turned out to be the proper stuff and much better.

Veggie selections for the main course were limited to a mushroom tagliatelle (£15), a cheese and mushroom vol-au-vent (£15), or Yorkshire pudding with root veg and gravy (£9). These all sound rather ordinary, but in typical Pern style have been “poshed up”, so we have buttered spinach and sherried cream with the vol au vent, while the Yorkie comes with an onion gravy made with Two Chefs ale.

My daughter picked the pasta and what could have been a dull dish came to life with the help of foraged mushrooms, young leeks, and Mrs Bell’s ewes milk curd. Here, it was all about the balance: an earthy note from the mushrooms, the sweetness from the leeks and a moreishness from the curd which bound it all together. The pasta was a lovely green colour and cooked to still have a bite. Following the nosotto, it proved too filling for my daughter. I cheekily asked for a doggy bag to take home and am pleased to report that the Star Inn is not too posh to wrap up your leftovers.

I liked the fact that the menu selection is quite brief – too often there is too much choice at restaurants, surely a one-page menu is adequate? Just five starters and five mains, two dishes from the grill and a selection of five pub grub classics as well as a catch of the day and a kids' menu means you don't have to spend too much time making your choice.

Tempted by the confit duck, I eventually plumped for the sea bass (£19) and ordered some "posh skinny fries" (£5, with parmesan and truffled mayo) on the side.

This was a nice dish: the delicate fish perfectly cooked and its subtle flavour boosted by a sea of salty shrimps and samphire and a creamy hollandaise sauce which, if I had one complaint, was too sweet.

We were quite full, but shared a pudding: the Yorkshire strawberry and Wensleydale ‘upside down’ cheesecake with strawberry sorbet (£8). Like the crab starter, this came in a glass, and was surprisingly lacking in flavour. I expected the creamy base to have more of a tang or cheese note, and to taste more of strawberry. However, the sorbet was bursting with flavours of berry fruit and was the highlight of the dish. I didn't like the crumb layered on top of the "cheesecake" as it just scattered everywhere. To be honest, I'm not a fan of these "deconstructed" desserts. Cheesecake needs a firm, biscuity base, and you play with that at your peril. A twist too far.

Star Inn the City, Museum St, York


T: 01904 619208

Food: Mostly good 3.5/5

Service: Very good 4/5

Ambience: Inviting 4/5

Value: Pricey 3.5/5

Reviews are independent and meals paid for by The Press