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Piano Restaurant at The Churchill Hotel Review

Visited January 2015

Piano Restaurant at The Churchill Hotel

The connection to Sir Winston Churchill (despite having his face as their logo) may be tenuous at best, but the Churchill Hotel is nonetheless a beautiful Georgian manor which fits perfectly into the splendid architecture of York. The innovative naming scheme continues with the Piano Restaurant, so named (as far as I can tell) because it does indeed contain a piano. Well, you can't argue with the logic there.

I visited with my wife and young daughter on a Saturday evening for dinner having been in York for an event during the day. It's rare I take my daughter out for dinner (usually would be lunch) but we were staying over in York and she's gotta eat! The Piano Restaurant seemed a safe bet; with two AA rosettes and a children's menu published online, it looked like the place for us. Of course when I booked I made it clear we were bringing our young daughter, as I always do.

The lady on reception was very nice and we were shown into the restaurant. It's a lovely art deco style room and there is indeed a piano and someone playing it, joyous stuff. Sadly when I was seated at our table, my view of the pianist was completely obscured by a big black door bearing the sign "Fire Door Keep Shut". Of course the door was open, why no one had thought to rehinge it so it opens outwards, thus affording all diners a view of the pianist, is a wonder I'll never understand.

The experience then got interesting as our waiter for the evening came strolling in, unquestionably the most pretentious gentleman I've had the displeasure of meeting in a long time. His first issue, clearly was with our daughter. He seemed extremely perturbed that we would dare bring our daughter to his amazing restaurant to sample the children's menu; who would even consider such a thing? I should make it absolutely clear that there were plenty of free tables on a Saturday night, it's not like we had taken the space of some elite adult restaurant goers from the aristocracy. If a restaurant says no children under x years, of course we don't take our daughter and equally we'd never expect her to sit through a tasting menu even at a restaurant that was child friendly. However what I find completely unacceptable is waiters in child-friendly restaurants thinking that they know better. That's just poor service.

Our daughter wasn't the only thing he had an issue with though, oh no. When my wife asked for a non-alcoholic drink, the way he screwed up his face was a sight to behold. "How dare she not become inebriated! This is an outrage!" is probably what he was thinking. His judgemental approach was far from finished; I like wine (surely a gold star for me) but I'm not going to drink a bottle on my own. There was absolutely no mention of wine by the glass on the wine list, so I showed huge disrespect to him, the restaurant, the pianist and indeed the entire city of York (or so it seemed) and asked if any wines were available by the glass. Sacre bleu!

He silently slammed his fingers into the wine list and pointed at two wines. Two. Literally only two, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Merlot. That was it. In 2015 they offer two wines by the glass and they don't even want you to know about it. I was fast realising it's not just the decor here that's stuck in the last century. Honestly, it was just farcical service but I do sometimes see this kind of thing in restaurants around the two rosette level; certain waiting staff somehow develop insane delusions of grandeur. It's not healthy.

There was however one saving grace. The food. The apple appetiser wasn't great, but my starter of king scallops was good and the pork belly main was an excellent dish and the highlight of the night for me. Dessert was less impressive; after a long wait for the dessert menus and then the food itself I probably wasn't in the best of moods, but the black forest deconstruction I ordered, although a nice idea, was poorly executed and lacking key flavours. But hey, after all that had gone before I was pretty chuffed to get two good plates of food out of three.

And that was pretty much it. To make up for the several empty tables, they even decided to charge me for two bottles of water when we'd only had one. By this point I was pretty desperate to leave so could not be bothered to argue, I even left a tip but that was entirely due to the food.

There are some positives to this place; the dining room is lovely and the chef can cook. Whilst the food is unquestionably the most important thing, the place overall is nowhere near the standard that would afford waiters the entitlement of being that far up their own arses. It really is a case of incredible delusions of grandeur and it must put people off; the food is worthy of a full restaurant for Saturday dinner but there were plenty of empty tables.

I noticed when writing this review that they've now removed the children's menu from the website. Maybe the delusional waiter got his way after all. Maybe our daughter, who was extremely well behaved all night, offended a fellow diner with her gorgeous smile. Needless to say, we'll never go back and I wouldn't advise anyone else to either.

Dress Code

Open shirt and smart trousers for me. This seemed standard looking around other diners.

Top Tip

Go somewhere else. If you do visit, parking at the hotel can be problematic if you're not a staying guest; there's a pay and display car park a short walk away.

Guide Ratings

The food is worthy of two AA rosettes in my view, so I've no issue with that award. I think given the other issues it's right not to be listed in the Michelin or Good Food Guides.
Ratings Michelin Guide AA Guide Good Food Guide
At time of review - AA RosetteAA Rosette -
Our view - AA RosetteAA Rosette -

Group size: 2 adults & 1 child. Total bill (including service): £110.