MAXINE GORDON gets in pole position to check out a new car-themed restaurant near York

IT seemed appropriate that we had to jump into the car to visit one of the area's new restaurants.

For, The Arnage - just 14 miles south of York near Sherburn in Elmet - is as much a shrine to the motorcar and motorsport as it is to food and drink.

It is the newest addition to The Motorist, a car showroom and cafe, which is already popular in the area and the centre piece for regular car events which draw crowds of up to 900.

The entire complex is the brainchild of local entrepreneur Simon Spinks, of Harrison Spinks mattresses.

But what of the restaurant? The Arnage has 78 covers in the main downstairs restaurant, 100 covers in its corporate upstairs lounge, Club Le Mans, as well as an additional 24 covers split across three different private dining rooms. Apparently, this is the place to go to watch Formula One races in style (while enjoying some food and drink too!)

Chef Ian Matfin is in the driving seat of the restaurant and has stints working in the kitchens of Gordon Ramsay and Raymond Blanc restaurants on his CV.

Not surprisingly, there are references to motorsport throughout - from arty black and white photographs of Formula One legends on the walls, to two vintage cars parked between diners in the restaurant (a 1902 Renault and a classic old Alvis, just so you know!). There are stitched leather seats and a carpet resembling tyre tracks too.

But what of the food? We happily sampled the menu as guests of the restaurant.

The team have had fun with the menu, liberally sprinkling car puns throughout.

So we have the 'Starting Grid’, with sharing snacks such as sea salt and rosemary focaccia (£6.50) and honey glazed pork chipolatas (£4.95), but also the ‘Formation Lap’ with more substantial starters such as crispy ham hock fritter (£5.50) and whipped chicken liver parfait (£6.50).

For the ‘Main Event’, the menu features British classics such as steak and ale pie, battered fresh east coast haddock as well as moules frites, which can be served alongside ‘Co Driver’ sides such as skin-on fries and truffle baked mash.

We began with drinks - a small beer for our designated driver and a cocktail for me. I plumped for Le Mans (well how could I not?) and enjoyed the refreshing mix of Cointreau, vodka and soda with a slice of orange. Perfect for a summer's evening.

We shared the poached king prawn bao buns to start - which at £11.95 were the most expensive starter by far on the menu. They came with a sweet chilli dipping sauce, and were tasty enough, but nothing to break out the champagne for.

York Press: Passion fruit tartPassion fruit tart

Our mains however, were in a different gear. The driver enjoyed breast of chicken with truffle baked mash, tenderstem broccoli and Madeira sauce (£14.50) while I savoured the fillet of hake with soft leaks, saffron and mussel sauce (£15.50). We had no complaints. If anything, the piece of hake was on the small side and I could easily have eaten more. It was cooked to perfection and also served with a handful of mussels.

The bonus of a smallish main dish was that I had room left for pudding. There was a pleasing selection of six desserts and a cheese plate; we went for the glazed passion fruit tart (£7) and the Eau Rouge Sundae (£7.95). The tart was outstanding: fine buttery pastry with a set tangy filling and served with a zingy scoop of raspberry sorbet. The sundae looked lovely and was a heavenly concoction of vanilla ice cream, raspberry sorbet, fresh raspberries and pieces of sticky toffee pudding.

We finished with a coffee and a peppermint tea and decided we would come back - perhaps on our bikes next time and visit the cafe as a half-way pit stop.

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