A dispute over the use of vacuum packing machines to store various meats has led one of York’s leading restaurants to score poorly in a food hygiene inspection.

Sotano at Little Stonegate received ‘one-star’ from City of York Council inspectors, meaning ‘major improvement necessary.’

The popular venue rates highly on TripAdvisor with 4.5 stars, making it 66th highest out of 587 York restaurants, with 838 out of 1,050 reviews rating it excellent. Just 21 called it terrible.

York Press:

A recent reviewer said “you’ve got to visit” for “some of the best tapas ever tasted.” Another praised “off the scale tapas”, adding “every dish was perfection.”

However, one complained of a “tired interior", leading owner Karen Waugh to say the toilets will be ‘renovated’ now that the VIP area has received a "lick of paint."

The Food Standards Agency rated Sotano ‘very good’ for how hygienically the food is handled, and also ‘very good’ for the cleanliness and condition of the facilities and the building. However, ‘major improvement necessary’ was given for food safety management.


A report by council food inspectors said a “lack of staff awareness over food safety systems indicate a lack of a management control over food operations.”

Officers noted that despite regular washing, various meats were vacuum packed using the same vacuum packer, creating a risk of contamination. The restaurant was told to produce smaller quantities to avoid this.

Karen said she felt this one-star rating is an “unfair evaluation of our practices.”

She told the Press: ”As an independent business who has been trading in York for over a decade, we understand the need for hygiene ratings and respect the process in full.”

Karen said the rating is down to its use of the vacuum packing machine, which Sotano has used since 2020. During a pre-inspection in March, she says the restaurant was unable to get ‘conclusive feedback’ on its use, and government food safety documentation has no guidance.

York Press: Sotano at 1 Little Stonegate

Karen continued: “Due to there being no guidance in the SFBB (safer food, better business) pack we had a ‘safe methods’ written up to ensure our team was using it in the safest way possible. Upon further evaluation, we were told our practices were adequate and sufficient.”

When the official inspection came, a different officer also noted no legislation to cover vacuum-packing, and noted the Food Standards Agency does accept both raw and cooked foods can be used on the same vac-pac machine.

“The officer however deemed this to not be ‘safe practice’, despite official legislation,” she said.

Despite feeling “misinformed” over “conflicting opinions”, Sotano now uses its vac-pac machine solely for raw (not ready to eat) produce. A re-inspection has been paid for and is expected in the next few weeks.

Karen says the restaurant “takes all comments seriously,” adding it is “extremely important to highlight we scored ‘very good’ on all other sections of our hygiene rating.”