Restaurant review: the Guy Fawkes Inn, High Petergate, York

Thanks a plot… the Guy Fawkes Inn. Photograph: Richard McDougall
6 Apr 2014 @ 12.23 pm
| Food & drink
Thanks a plot… the Guy Fawkes Inn. Photograph: Richard McDougall
Thanks a plot… the Guy Fawkes Inn. Photograph: Richard McDougall

ron-godfrey-headshot-caricatureA devious Ron Godfrey plots his own brand of betrayal of trust at Guy Fawkes’ pad

Listen (mouth behind my hand and for your ears only) if you’re planning something really dastardly, there’s no better place than this – at The Guy Fawkes Inn at York’s history-laden High Petergate.

And I was plotting something so shockworthy that not even Mrs G was aware of it. If I had told her I’d have had to kill her. Then again, if I’d have told her she might have killed me first.


OK, it wasn’t as heinous as the misdeed of Mr Fawkes, the greatest traitor ever, who they say was born in a little house in an intimate courtyard of that Inn near York Minster in 1570 and went on to plan the failed gunpowder plot of 1605.

What could be worse, you may ask, than scheming to smithereen the whole of the House of Lords in London by hoarding barrels of gunpowder in its under croft? What could be worse than the fate that met him after his arrest on the 5th November that year?

Well, everything is relative and later I shall reveal all – but only on a need to know basis…

The interior

Atmospheric… inside the inn
Atmospheric… inside the inn

What attracted Mrs G and me here in the first place was the discovery that the Inn’s gas-lamp and candle-lit plank-floored restaurant, as dark and mellow as a Rembrandt painting, was offering what it described as its Conspirator’s Menu.

At £10 for two courses and £13.50 for three, it was available on Mondays to Fridays between noon and 4pm.

It gave us a perfect excuse to soak up the medieval mood savoured not just by tourists and real ale aficionados, but also by guests of its 13-room four star hotel enjoying the culinary benefits.

No surprises that the place is in the finals of the pub/bar of the year category in the 2014 Visit York Tourism Awards – results to be announced on May 8.

In the shimmering light from tallow-caked wine bottles and in the shifting shadows in decoratively moulded ceilings and two hollowed alcoves featuring paintings of deer and swans, flickered the ghosts of history.

You could almost see the young Guy, baptised incidentally, at the Church of St Michael Le Belfrey opposite, leaving with his satchel, heading for St Peter’s School and meeting up with John and Christopher Wright, the brothers and fellow students who years later were to join him and 10 others in the conspiracy.

Of course we could have opted for the a la carte menu in which starters were colourfully headlined Light The Fuse, mains were divided into Guy Fawkes Classics and Feed the Fire and afters were dubbed Let It Burn, but frankly we found the prices daunting.

For example, the main courses range from “three little pigs” braised belly, with seared loin, pig cheek and homemade black pudding at £18.95, to beetroot bourguignon with silver skin onions, thyme and creamy mashed potato at £12.50.

However it was relatively cheaper in the “classics” section ranging from belly pork with crackling, fondant potato and apple chorizo jus at £11.95 to a trio of Yorkshire sausages in bubble and squeak at £9.95.

So the Conspirator’s Menu seemed a much better cash proposition although the trade off was the limited timescale (lunch or too-early supper) and a much-truncated menu with a choice of just three starters, three mains and three puddings.

But was there a loss in quality? We were soon to find out.

The food

Both of us spurned the cauliflower soup with fresh homemade bread roll. My choice was salmon and crab fishcake while hers was chicken liver pate’, both, we were told, being sourced locally.

She ordered a smooth, large Merlot while I indulged in my usual medicinal Diet Coke, that elixir to all diabetics.

My fish/ crustacean cake was plump and meaty, its delicate flavour enhanced by a creamed leek sauce. Very subtle.

Mrs G’s paté was served with what she described as “finger lickin’ fig chutney and granary toast.”

When it came to the main course we surmised, perhaps wrongly (even snobbishly) that the pollock and chips with crushed minted peas, lemon and tartare was merely a posh way of saying fish, chips and mushies.

So I chose pan-fried chicken breast and she ordered tomato and goat’s cheese tart.

The chicken arrived in a small pond of tangy gravy looking good with its windswept hair of leaf and cress. When broken up its components were revealed – smoked bacon, mushrooms and baby onions.

It looked scrumptious, had a scrumptious texture and by golly it was scrumptious.

Finger-lickin' paté starter
Finger-lickin’ paté starter
Mr G's main: pan-fried chicken
Mr G’s main: pan-fried chicken
Mrs G's main: tomato and goat's cheese tart
Mrs G’s main: tomato and goat’s cheese tart

Mrs G was also impressed with the presentation of her dish but found that in spite of the sharp balsamic splatters, the cheese was a bit overpowering for her taste.

Meanwhile, studying the décor I noticed an old, probably Victorian photograph of a moustachioed gentleman with central parting and dog collar in an ornate gold frame so impressive that it was all enclosed in a further glass frame.

“Who he?” I asked two waiters and a waitress, but was variously told “Don’t know” “Have no idea” and “your guess is as good as mine…”

I tried to persuade Mrs G that they really knew who he was all right and there was a conspiracy for some mysterious reason to keep the facts a secret.

But now I confess that this was a crude ruse, a subterfuge to distract Mrs G’s attention from my own shocking transgression.

Namely, while she was studying Mr Moustache I was secretly ordering sticky toffee pudding – the equivalent of kryptonite to superman for diabetics like me. It arrived steaming and swimming in butterscotch sauce.

Was it in a fit of pique that Mrs G refused to match me, or to indulge in a dark chocolate tart with orange and mint salad; or cheese and biscuits?

Instead she glowered at me over a second Merlot as I guzzled like a drunk who had just fallen off the wagon and licking my lips with a crazed windscreen wiper tongue.

I apologise to her and to my diabetic nurse for my dangerously rising blood sugars but sometimes journalists must make sacrifices in the interests of their readers.

Besides, for that moment I felt a real affinity with Mr Fawkes who having been led to the scaffold for a half-hanging so that he could see his body parts being removed by his executioners before being drawn and quartered, leaped from the uppermost step and broke his neck.

It seems we were both headed for a sticky end…

The bill

Diet Coke £1.85
Large Merlot (twice) £11.50
Two courses £10
Three courses £13.50

Total £36.85

The verdict

Food: Well presented, locally-sourced but not much choice ★★★
Service: Friendly and attentive ★★★★
Ambience: Spookily medieval ★★★★
Value: Compared to the a la carte, relatively cheap ★★★

Overall rating: A little more than ★★★

The Guy Fawkes Inn | 25 High Petergate, York YO1 7HP | 01904 466674 | [email protected] |