It’s not very often you’ll hear me describe food as “ridiculous” but after every mouthful that was the word that kept bursting out my dinner partner’s mouth. It’s not like he’s uneducated about food either.
With his gamekeeping and land management background, he knows his Chanterelles from his Shiitake, and between the two of us, we bombarded the front-ofhouse duo in Hudsons with question after question.
They were exceptional, a tag team duo with an encyclopedic knowledge of food, foraging and wine. It’s what makes Hudsons by Craig Atchinson – a restaurant which is part of York’s Grand Hotel & Spa’s £15 million refurbishment – that little bit extra special.
You can have all the money in the world to throw at a refurbishment. You can make a place look a million dollars but you can’t buy passion. And it’s what staff ooze here.
Hudsons by Craig Atchinson is The Grand’s fine-dining outfit. “Consistency is key,” says Craig, from County Durham, who’s travelled the UK and beyond working in top hotels and restaurants, including a two-and-a-half year stint on the Isle of Wight.
“It’s important the front-of-house team know their game, what’s on the menu, the ingredients used,” says the 37 year old, who opened The Talbot Hotel with TV Chef James Martin.
With only 22 covers, Hudsons allows Craig and his brigade to focus on ‘culinary excellence’. Although he’s worked with household names such as James, Craig says the two most instrumental chefs in his career are Craig Nicholls – who he worked for at Redworth Hall – and Matt Weedon.
“Craig’s kitchen was regimented, militant with a high calibre of chefs. Then in 2003, I met Matt Weedon at Seaham Hall. I thought I knew how to cook until I met this guy. His food was simple, classical. There were no water baths, no probes, gages, the science was exact, this was real cooking.”
Although the chefs set the benchmark for Craig, his own methods have progressed, his palate is more refined and his practice is based on three key ingredients: produce, cooking technique and flavour.
On his menu, another ‘extra mile’ detail which is placed perfectly in an envelope on our table, dishes include sea trout, kohlrabi (part of the cabbage family), garlic and watercress and his signature dish – North Atlantic stone bass with langoustine, fennel and buckwheat.
All of the ingredients have been meticulously thought about. Forager Alysia Vasey, who works with Great British chefs, brings basketfuls of foraged finds to Craig. Ingredients also come from Yorkshire vegetable plots, fruit orchids and Craig admits he’s ‘obsessed with brewing wildflower wine and fermenting vegetables’.
He’s a man who loves and respects nature, it’s what sets his creative soul alight. Smoked cod roe, seaweed and sea buckthorn set the tone of the nine-course tasting menu, with dollops of emulsified sea buckthorn and cod’s roe delivering a silky texture against the crispy seaweed. It’s a dish that’s packed full of flavour.
Roasted venison, beetroot, grilled lettuce and violet mustard is exactly how it should be: pink and juicy. The glazed beef cheek, with hen of the woods, horseradish, alliums and truffle is nothing short of “ridiculous”. The dish’s flavours working harmoniously together.
Here at Hudsons, you can smell and taste dedication and Craig’s sights are set firmly at the top. “We’d love to achieve a fourth rosette and a star in the next 18 months,” he says.
The nine-course tasting menu is £80 per person. A five-course tasting menu is available for £50. Wine pairing is £50. thegrandyork.co.uk