CITY SCREEN is celebrating its 20th anniversary – giving MAXINE GORDON the perfect excuse to check out its riverside café

WE decided to review York's City Screen café in honour of its 20th anniversary.

However, you don't really need an excuse to visit this York treasure; with its glass sliding doors leading on to a dining platform overlooking the Ouse, it is one of the loveliest places in York to sit and enjoy a drink and a snack.

Even in the middle of winter, it's a mood-lifting location: you can grab one of the tables inside and bask in the winter sun streaming in through the enormous panes of glass.

That's if you can get a table.

It's a popular spot, not just for its unrivalled location and stunning views, but also because it boasts a rather impressive café bar.

City Screen created a buzz when it first opened back in January 2000. Billed as an arts cinema, it promised to deliver an exciting programme of movies as well as give residents access to a part of York that had been shut off for years. Housed in the former Yorkshire Herald building, off Coney Street, City Screen was built in what was the former print house of the Yorkshire Evening Press (now The Press).

Regulars of the café will know that the place was legendary for its skin-on chips and aioli (garlic mayonnaise). Many a happy evening of mine has been spent sharing a toasted sandwich and bowl of chips before watching a movie.

I'm delighted to say the chips are still on the menu – but there is a lot more choice.

In fact, I was surprised by quite how much choice when I popped in with my teenage daughter last Sunday.

There were no free tables when we arrived at about 1.30pm – so we perched on two stools by a raised bar on the edge of the café and studied the menus.

A breakfast and brunch menu is served every day from 10.30am until noon.

On Sundays you can take advantage of the 'Sunday Plates' selection, served from noon to 3pm, offering three roast dinners at £14 each. These aren't your bog-standard roasts – sure there was a chicken, beef and veggie option, but there was plenty of culinary imagination going on too. The rump of beef was roasted in chimichurri, a green marinade with garlic, chilli, vinegar, coriander, parsley and oregano, and served with Marmite shallots. The aubergine came with a hazelnut dukkah (a Middle Eastern mix of herbs, nuts, and spices) and crumbed Wensleydale. The sides were a mix of the usual and the exotic too – Yorkshire puddings and gravy, but also broccoli coated in butter flavoured with za'atar (a spice combo of cumin, sesame seeds, dried oregano and sumac), crispy five spice kale, roast potatoes, and carrots glazed with harissa and honey.

Esoteric ingredients are a flavour of the other menus too, so unless you confidently know your kachumber from your kimchi and your togarashi from your sriracha you might be spending some time on Google translate before ordering!

There was a Veganuary menu with a range of small and large plates available too, but we chose from the lunch and dinner menu, served every day from noon until 9.30pm.

The selection is almost too much, with a range of snacks, small plates, posh sarnies and filling flatbreads as well as salads, burgers and large plates such as fish and chips and moussaka. Prices ranged from £3.50 for a bowl of olives to £14 for a salad of salmon with cucumber, kohlrabi, courgette and spinach in a miso dressing with cured yolk and udon noodles.

My daughter, who is doing Veganuary, chose the Hoisin-glazed pulled butternut squash bao bun with kohlrabi, crispy seaweed, togarashi and onion crumb (£8).

Bao buns are a culinary craze, and a worthy one. They are steamed Chinese bread rolls, pale white, soft and fluffy, and the perfect blank canvas for a firework of a filling. The City Screen version certainly provided that, with an explosion of flavours and textures, from the sweet stickiness of the Hoisin glaze to the tongue-tingling heat of the togarashi, a Japanese chilli pepper. There was a welcome crunch too from the matchsticks of kohlrabi (a German turnip).

I was happy with my choice: fried chilli chicken with chilli sambal mayo, miso dressing, crispy seaweed and toasted sesame seeds, served in a brioche bun with tomato, lettuce, red onion, coleslaw and hand-cut chips (£13).

As we waited, a table became free by the window. It was the perfect spot to tuck into our lunch. The star of my dish was the chicken. It had a light crispy coating but was the most succulent chicken breast I'd tasted. Worthy of a gold medal. Who needs all those fancy pants ingredients when chicken can taste as good as this? The chips were fat and cooked to perfection, and ideal for dunking into mayonnaise.

It was a dish I'd order again – but I think I might be tempted to try something else from City Screen's ambitiously attractive menus (although it might take another 20 years to work my way through them!).

Many happy returns!

City Screen

13-17 Coney St, York YO1 9QL

T: 0871 902 5747


Food: Trendy 4/5

Ambience: Unbeatable 5/5

Service: Good 4/5

Value: Good 4/5

Reviews are independent and meals are paid for by The Press