We often talk about the simple joy of taking a holiday on your doorstep, even if it’s just for a couple of hours (see yesterday’s top 7 local resorts for loads of inspiration). Certain places, even those a walk away, have the ability to infuse an evening with a pleasant touch of the idyllic, the rural or even the exotic.
I’d always thought York and Albany, perched at the top of Camden Town’s attractive parade Parkway, and at the foot of verdant Regent’s Park had that sort of feel to it, but had never actually been.
The former coaching inn sat derelict and hopelessly abandoned for over two decades, a seemingly impossible location for a modern day pub, stranded in a sea of road traffic.
Then the Gordon Ramsay Group spotted that the old place would make a rather fetching boutique hotel, located so close to the majestic sweep of Nash’s terraces, or indeed, the rock ‘n’ roll boozers of the Camden Town strip.
Its coming has only added to a food scene that’s in unexpectedly rude health along the length of Parkway, bringing posh seasonal British dining to the range of trusted Japanese, French, Vietnamese, Indian and other restaurants lining this ancient thoroughfare.
Despite a rather lukewarm early reception for the flagship restaurant (there’s also an atmospheric cobbled pizza ‘pantry’ operating next door), and making our list of ideal spots for a pre-Open Air Theatre bite, we haven’t covered the Y&A much.
So, at the recent launch for the summer attraction, the Gin T garden, we were invited to stay on for dinner.
The main room was nicely buzzy as we sipped on a delicate English sparking Chapel Down Brut rose. As in the gin garden, the glassware is seriously beautiful, a touch that always helps make a drink feel really special.
Seared scallops resting on aubergine and tomatoes were sublime. Less memorable was English asparagus and quails’ eggs, not a bad dish overall, just disappointingly ordinary, especially when up against those melt-in-the-mouth molluscs.
When similarly pitted against each other, the mains had a clear winner too in the 10oz West Country rib eye. A faultless steak with excellent peppercorn sauce and chips, it trumped the seared sea trout and Cornish crab, although for a light lunch, the fish would have been a great choice.
The restaurant emptied quite early, the post-work dining crowd seeking that train home, rather than lingering like carefree tourists. Us locals, however, enjoyed the urban tranquillity and ordered ourselves a couple of decadent dessert cocktails.
On a summer’s night such as this, with the huge doors of the main bar flung wide towards the zoo just over the trees, it certainly felt pleasingly otherworldly. Or perhaps that was the effect of the L’amour a l’ancienne, Monbazillac sweet wine, cognac and Benedictine liqueur muddled in another exquisite glass, and served to muddy the waters of our senses too.
The sherry and Armagnac Pedro Pedro was just as good, both drinks pitching their boozy punch perfectly against the restrained sweetness of dessert, macerated blueberries from Wye valley and vanilla panna cotta.
A short totter in the shadows of Parkway’s trees served as a gentle reintroduction to the various realities of late night NW1. If we’d headed up to one of the rustic-chic hotel rooms though, the deception would have been complete.