The difficulty of getting a table at Pairings Wine Bar, York is a testament to how this place has evolved since I last reviewed it, although to be fair it hadn’t been open for long. Unfortunately the only table we were able to get this time was at 6pm, and it was clarified that it had to be returned at 8pm.
As much as this conveyor belt approach annoys me, I feel the need for it among small independent operators who have to maximize their offer. But not everyone handles this as well as the Pairings staff. Having been here recently with a group of friends, we exceeded our time slot, and despite our overzealous pleading for a little longer, the staff handled us well with smiles and apologies all around as they sent us away at Castlegate. Obviously I forgave them as I was back just two weeks later, this time with my eye on the clock.
Pairings is a wine bar with a mind-boggling list of drinks and, unsurprisingly, an impressive wine list. There’s page after page of select wines grouped by color and style, from crisp and light to robust and heavy, and everything in between. It would be easy to feel intimidated by the depth and breadth of the offer, but they don’t let that happen as they want their customers to enjoy the experience, so help and advice is at hand. hand when needed or requested. But, of course, it all depends on what you want from your visit, there’s no need for a full wine pairing; you can go all the way or, as we did, just enjoy a glass or two of your favorite wine.
I may have flirted easily with the wine list, but struggled with the food, as I wanted each of the dishes on the small plates menu and most of the heartier platters and platters on offer. The food here is carefully selected to show off some of Yorkshire’s finest meats, cheeses and condiments, with names including Lishman’s, Wensleydale, Voakes Pies, Yorkshire Chorizo and Haxby Bakehouse; it then travels out of the county, across the UK and into Europe. We called for help at this point otherwise our two hours would have been gobbled up just trying to order.
We left with a bowl of thick and creamy hummus with Haxby sourdough and crunchy vegetables, plus a salad of roasted beets, Ashlynn goat cheese, lamb’s lettuce and walnuts with an olive oil vinaigrette and honey. Then we ordered the ultimate charcuterie platter for two, which we both got to choose from; me the cheese, he the meats. Other choices could have been a Yorkshire or Mediterranean, vegetarian and vegan board and an ultimate cheese platter for two to three people.
Our tray was moaning with food. There was a whole pork pie, thick slices of tender ham, and a dish of moist, greasy, and lightly spiced duck rillettes, which when spread on sourdough were easily my favorite of the night. We had three large chunks of cheese, a sweet and fruity taleggio, a 90 day cellar aged Manchego and a Yorkshire Blue. There was more bread, crackers, greasy green olives, chutney and pickles. As someone who likes to graze and share food, this was just perfect for me; it’s such a friendly and sociable way to eat.
I stayed out of the dessert choices, doubting I could eat anything else, but that disappeared when a trio of miniature puddings arrived. A glass of superb rich dark chocolate mousse and blackberry apple pie with cherry compote were irresistible. However, the only part of the whole meal that didn’t measure up was a rhubarb and pistachio panna cotta, which was a bit overdone but still tasty.
Pairings is owned and operated by sisters Kelly and Kate, who growing up knew they wanted to do business together. At Pairings, each sister literally brought her skills to the table, Kelly with the wine and Kate with the business acumen. As a result, the place is personal, relaxing and neat, and the staff are great. I love that Kate and Kelly took out a lot of the formality and pretentiousness around the food and wine pairings. While wine bars or food and wine pairings are nothing new, far from it, these two had a vision for their business and by sticking to it, they created something very special in York.
Pairings Wine Bar, 28 Castlegate, York YO1 9RP, tel. : 01904 848909, e-mail: [email protected] Open: Sunday to Thursday, 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight.