By Ben Thorpe on 08 Dec 2017
Lurking on the corner of Merchantgate and Walmgate, Corner Grill House nestles next to the Red Lion and invites guests in through a narrow double door at the corner of the building (rather appropriately). I remember it being a few different things over the last decade, during which it's been badly affected by flooding, though thankfully it's bounced back now and chef Radek Bak is turning out lovingly prepared dishes to appreciative diners once again.
Having never visited before, I assumed it'd be rather quiet all evening on the Monday we visited but after an hour or so we found the place pleasantly lively without feeling frenetic or crowded. The menu includes staples such as burgers and pasta dishes, but the heart of the a la carte options is heavily meat biased with a selection of sides. We went for pork tenderloin and rack of lamb, choosing prawn and soup dishes to precede them.
As the evening started to make progress, the atmosphere became more convivial, with the friendly server easily covering the room singlehandedly while leaving a decent interval for conversation and wine to appear before the starters arrived. The prawns were well judged, and not at all overcooked as is so depressingly the case, in cream, white wine and garlic with some lettuce to give a bit of texture, while the roasted tomato soup carried pesto and cheese happily to give it depth.
Thanks to the unobtrusive service, we hardly noticed being asked for confirmation that the first course was good or the subsequent removal of plates while Radek worked away in the kitchen. I shudder to consider the work rate in there as one person keeps up the required pace for service. Without betraying any of his labours, Radek had our mains plated up at exactly the right time to continue the meal.
Both the rack of lamb and pork tenderloin were perfectly cooked. We'd chosen roast potatoes, creamed spinach, mashed potato and some greens to go with the meats which all arrived attractively plated with the correct dish rather than on a litany of side plates as one might fear. The cooking of both cuts of meat showed great competence on the chef's behalf with the lamb arriving as pink as I wanted it while the pork remained soft and tender. If pushed for a complaint, it irritated me that the (rich and balanced) sauces were served in jugs that arrived on the plates which then made a mess of the table when subsequently deposited. Maybe more of a problem for the front of house staff than me, but not perfect.
For dessert we shared a sticky toffee pudding which, while perfectly serviceable, didn't reflect the competence in the meat dishes. That said, I still grabbed my share of it!
Corner Grill House really impressed me. Not everywhere in York needs to be pushing boundaries. Everything we had was well presented and did justice to the ingredients; there's a lot to be said for simple food cooked well. Two courses each and a shared dessert with a glass of wine each didn't top £45. For well cooked rack of lamb and pork with good service, that's a notable bargain. York would be benefited by more chefs cooking simple, well resolved, food and Radek is leading the way.
Disclaimer: No charge was made for our meal but opinions are impartial.