The Dean and I

Fun Times In Europe editor Tony Mallett took a trip back to his happy-hunting ground of York and ran into a few old friends. Some of them made of red brick…

It had been a while since I’d been back to York. Once an ex-girlfriend had virtually run me out of town nine-and-a-half years ago, just after she came to visit Yours Truly in Brussels, there seemed little incentive.

OK, I made a few trips in the early days but, as you do, I let it slide. So it had been about six years. And most of the memories had faded away like the taste of a Betty’s cream cake.

Amazingly, it had been a whole 19 years since I’d last set foot in the Dean Court Hotel. That was on my wedding night. Fortunately, the hotel lasted a good deal longer than my marriage…

Court in the Act: The hotel and York's magnificent Minster

I knew we were in trouble when my new – and, to date, only – wife said: “Come to bed…Ian”. Just so you know, Ian is the name of her previous spouse. Heigh-ho. Fortunately, I was already bored with her wedding-day antics and having way too much fun sipping champers and looking out of the window from the bridal suite to the magnificent Minster – located only yards away – to care.

York Minster would be the stone-built, stained-glass-rich edifice that is (it says here) the biggest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe.

Who the hell counted the bricks?

So, nearly two decades on, what’s the Dean Court Hotel actually like? Well, I’m used to hospitality but the staff at this relatively small but perfectly formed hotel are among the friendliest I’ve ever had the pleasure of being looked-after-by.

After many ‘hellos’ I was shown to a room with a 4-poster bed. I thought I recognised the view from the window. As God and the Minster are my witnesses, it was not only the same hotel but the same room. The bed had been moved, however, since my ill-starred post-nuptials. Can’t think why.

Anyway, a bit of history; the red brick Dean Court Hotel was built in the 1860s, originally as three separate houses. These held the Minster’s clergy – so they certainly didn’t have far to go to work…

Just after the First World War, the middle dwelling was opened up as a guest house and, eventually, all three were merged into a hotel.

By 1978, the cottage next door had become part of the complex and the whole forms what is now a multi-award winning, grade II-listed, 4-star hotel with 37 individually styled guest rooms. The hotel is recognised as one of the top ‘boutique-style’ places to stay in God’s Own County.

And then there’s the restaurant and The Court café bistro… I had booked dinner for two in D.C.H, the restaurant, not really knowing what to expect. My guest was a much-adored lady from the city who actually works in a hotel herself  (not the Dean Court) and I reckoned it would be a bit of a treat for her to have a lovely dinner as a guest, rather than as a hotel staffer.

First up, Kim and I had generous glasses of wine at the bar – top marks to the cool barman – before being ushered in to the delightful surroundings of the recently rebranded and trendy ‘D.C.H’. There, we found a slightly odd combination – it was upmarket but not aggressively so. The waiter, for example, was attentive but not pushy and was quite happy to leave us to enjoy the view of the Minster – from the same corner-angle as my room above, as it happens.

Cooking up a storm: D.C.H chef Valerie Storer

It’s not hugely formal, but smart enough so that the hotel requests that you switch off your mobile phone. Trying to marry chic, elegance and respect for your fellow diners while keeping the atmosphere relaxed, warm, chatty yet chilled is a fine line to tread but, in many ways thanks to those brilliant staff, D.C.H pulls it off.

As for the food, well, creative French chef Valerie Storer has done wonders with the menu in the  recent past, using produce sourced from within Yorkshire and, of course, her Gallic gifts.

Under Storer’s watch, D.C.H has become renowned throughout the county for its superb food and finest, personally selected wines. Certainly, my salmon was glorious, the wine excellent (and not over-priced) and the dessert a dream for a chocoholic such as me. Kim was pretty happy too…

I spent two nights at the Dean Court but sadly, due to my hectic catch-up-with-friends schedule, I didn’t have a chance to eat in The Court bistro. I had a look around though, and it’s another world again – bright, airy, modern and, by all accounts, the place to get your afternoon cream teas.

To sum up, the Dean Court has undoubtedly the best location of any hotel within York’s city walls. Rather than try to be the most modern place on Earth, it revels in its history yet is comfortable and stylish. And, no, I don’t know if it has a ghost. But one ‘sort-of-ghost’ from 19 years ago was certainly glad to be back in an old haunt…

Dean Court Hotel

Duncombe Place

YO1 7EF York

Tel: +44 1904 625082


One response to “The Dean and I

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