Fine dining, US-style – New restaurant will serve up a ‘fresh concept for York’

14 Feb 2016 @ 8.19 pm
| Food & drink

When it comes to fine dining, size isn’t everything.

While some places sell their food on the “never mind the quality, look at the portions” principle, that’s not chef Neil Bentinck’s way.

His new restaurant will be based on the “snacks and small plates” concept.

“The best way to describe it is grazing, little snacks and nibbles, eat as much as you want,” says Neil.

“It’s a fresher style of food. Modern cooking, modern techniques with international influence taken from my heritage and my travels.”

Casual and refined

Savoury waffles with smoked fish mousse and caviar
Savoury waffles with smoked fish mousse and caviar

Even the name of the restaurant, Skosh, reflects this outlook. It comes from the Japanese word Sukoshi, meaning a small amount.

The dining style of snacks and small plates originated in the United States, a country normally known for its “bigger is better” attitude.

It has arrived in London – but will be a new concept for York, says Neil.

He plans to open Skosh at 98 Micklegate in May.

“We’re going for a casual style, but refined food on the plate, served in a nice casual atmosphere.”

The premises used to house Belvoir Lettings, now relocated to Walmgate, so it’s undergoing quite a transformation, said Neil.

There’ll be an open kitchen, so that’s a main feature in the dining room.

The colour palette is light greys and charcoals with splashes of rich yellows and golds.

There’ll be some fixed bench seating, some high tables, some standard-height tables and some bar dining at the open kitchen.

Wagyu, caviar and marshmallow

The humble hen's egg, reinvented by Neil
The humble hen’s egg, reinvented by Neil

So what food can we expect? Neil has the menu all planned. In size order, the nibbles will come in at £2-£4. An example?

“An eggcup with an egg yolk puree, a seasonal mousse with textured topping, then crunchy nibbles on the side. Almost like an amuse bouche.”

Next come your snacks: something like mousse or paté served with some biscuits would be priced at around £6 or £7.

What else? “Pig’s head fritters with a seasonal sweet and sour ketchup – rhubarb or apple,” says Neil. “Savoury waffles with smoked fish mousse and caviar.”

The small plates are likely to include dishes like “Yorkshire wagyu beef with beetroot, coffee and soy”.

And Neil has a signature pudding up his sleeve.

Goat’s curd marshmallow is one of the favourite puddings I’ve done for a few years.

That’s sweet and lactic acid at the same time – it’s really interesting.

Skosh will be working with local producers, including Ainsty Ales, Brunswick Organic Nursery and the Yorkshire Wagyu Company.

Chef at top Yorkshire restaurants

Essex-born Neil came to York aged three and began his life in catering working part-time at Middlethorpe Hall after school.

The Yorkshire kitchens he’s worked in include the Sun Inn at Colton and the Blue Bicycle on Fossgate in York.

He was head chef at the refurbished Churchill Hotel, which earned two rosettes, before going to the Michelin-starred Pipe And Glass in East Yorkshire.

Finally Neil was head chef at the acclaimed Van Zeller in Harrogate for two years, before leaving to take up his dream of opening his own place.

Passionate about food… Neil at work
Passionate about food… Neil at work

Extensive travels in Australia, Japan, the US, New Zealand and Thailand have also influenced his cooking. As has his dad, who is Indian.

“Dad cooked at home, Indian food alongside my mum’s British traditional cooking,” says Neil.

“It was certainly interesting growing up to have a variety of food like that.”

He hopes Skosh will bring something new to the city.

There’s a lot of restaurants in York but there’s a lot of chains. There’s space certainly for independents.

Le Cochon Aveugle is one of the only independent restaurants that I really enjoy. Anything else out there, there’s nothing particularly different.

Up-and-coming street

New flavours come to an old street
New flavours come to an old street

And he’s delighted to be part of Micklegate’s renewal.

“It’s a couple of doors down from the Rattle Owl restaurant and a couple of doors up from the Falcon Tap. I scoured around a lot of York.

“Micklegate is actually very up-and-coming. In the next few years people are going to see quite an improvement in that area, hopefully leaning towards the Bishy Road standards.

“Your Bike Shed cafe’s fantastic, they’re building some new flats, there’s the project behind the railway station in the next few years – it certainly is a great location.”

Skosh will have 45 covers. And you won’t have to wait till its May opening to enjoy the flavours.

Neil is organising some pop up restaurants next month, offering a taste of things to come, including two in York:

Skosh at the Pig & Pastry, Bishopthorpe Road – Sat March 19 @ 7.30pm

Skosh at the Attic at Harlequins, King’s Square – Thu March 24 @ 7.30pm

Two years in the planning, is Neil raring to open Skosh? “There’s still a lot to do, but it is exciting. I can’t wait.”