International flavours mingle with ingredients from Yorkshire at Neil Bentinck’s first restaurant. Lisa Jenkins pays a visit
Skosh is indisputably cool. The Observer’s restaurant critic Jay Rayner described chef-owner Neil Bentinck’s cooking as “clever, delicious and often brilliant,” adding that the site was “the ideal of what an ambitious, independent restaurant should be.”
Skosh, located on the beautifully quaint street of Micklegate in York, opened in 2016. Its name is taken from the Japanese word ‘sukoshi’, meaning a little or small amount, defining the restaurant’s small plates concept. Bentinck (formerly head chef of Van Zeller in Harrogate) says he gets inspiration for his dishes from everywhere – books, meals out, his family heritage (his father is from India) and travelling, adding that he cooks the food “that I like to eat myself. I love fresh, spicy food and flavours that really pack a punch – so that’s just what I do at the restaurant.”
The brigade uses local produce when in season, but the menu also requires a variety of ingredients from further afield, such as fresh curry leaves, coconuts and watermelons. Closer to home, Bentinck uses suppliers including Courtyard Dairy and Richardsons of Woodthorpe, a local, traditional butchers in York run by Martin Richardson and two of Bentinck’s best mates from school, Andy and Chris. Fish is bought in from FR Fowler & Son, which sources Scottish hand-dived scallops and a selection of predominately Whitby-landed fish, crabs and lobsters.
On the winter menu The Caterer sampled fried chicken and brown butter hollandaise (£7) and a traditional Indo-Chinese dish, deep-fried brussels sprouts in a Manchurian sauce, a type of spiced gravy (£5.50). Dishes on the current menu include Lindisfarne oysters with lemongrass granita (£3), hen’s egg with St Andrew’s Cheddar, mushroom and PX sherry (£3.50) and a Japanese-inspired chawanmushi, a steamed egg savoury custard with white asparagus, hazelnut and truffle (£6).
The most frequent feedback Bentinck receives is from customers asking him which ingredients provide the punch of flavour in his creations. He has his favourite ingredients to cook with, such as lobsters and scallops and aged beef, but he says that what most excites him is cooking with lime juice, fish sauce, shrimp paste, ginger, basil, cumin and black cardamom. Flavours that, he says, “stand out and say, hey, look at me, I taste fucking intense!” With regards to desserts, Bentinck says there is always a dark chocolate option on the menu, as well as a seasonal fruit choice. He is also particularly fond of a goats’ curd marshmallow paired with raspberries, olive oil and lychees, which appears in the summer.
The wine list has six white and four red, all available by the glass and carafe, along with a wine journal offering some more unusual choices. There’s a good ale list, too, including Saucery, an IPA from Magic Rock Brewing, and White Noise, a white ale from Yeastie Boys.
The restaurant has a solid amount of repeat customers, mostly locals, and the team serves around 80-100 covers a day, with an average spend of £45 per person. The kitchen cooks lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Saturday, as well as Sunday lunch employing six full-time staff, one part-time and two kitchen porters.
Skosh was awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2017 and has received many glowing reviews since, including one in the Financial Times from Nicholas Lander (former owner of L’Escargot in Soho in the 1980s). Most recently it was awarded Restaurant of the Year at tourism awards ceremony the White Rose Awards, which was an unexpected win, Bentinck says. He and his partner Chelsey took the team to the Angel at Hetton to celebrate.
Diners would do well to follow Rayner’s advice: if you’re ever in the area, do drop in and experience Skosh for yourself.
From the menu
• Lamb belly fritters, lemon kosho aïoli £5
• Potato flatbreads with onion mousse and kalonji caramel £5.50
• Salt-baked celeriac glazed in teriyaki with leeks and furikake £9
• Salt-aged beef rump tartare, mushroom and sesame, chilled consommé £11
• Chargrilled Galician octopus, wild garlic, nahm jim and kohlrabi £12
• Baron Bigod, black truffle crumpet and pickled girolles £5
• Gingerbread parfait, rhubarb, sorrel and liquorice £8.50
• 63% Idukki chocolate tart with black olive and makrut lime £9.50
98 Micklegate, York YO1 6JX www.skoshyork.co.uk
Photography by Karen Turner