“Man does not live by murder alone. He needs affection, approval, encouragement and, occasionally, a hearty meal” according to Alfred Hitchcock.
With this in mind (and Hitch himself) proprietors Sam and Jan Robinson of 1331 have gone about creating a unique dining experience in their newest outlet Vertigo.
1331 is one of the great success stories of York: a builder and admin worker by trade, Sam and Jan have been on a big journey together, from their initial plans for a small indie bar in York, through to building a cinema and then making a Hitchcock-esque feature film (Whoops! available to buy here). Good food and cinema have been at the core of each of their endeavors: therefore to extend from their bar to a separate, fine dining ode to Hitchcock somehow, for these two, makes perfect sense.
The nods to the man himself are more like a love note than a full-on homage. From the small details throughout the bar, the subtle outlines on the wall and the exquisite toilet décor - the women have all Hitchcock’s leading men and the gents have not only the leading ladies but one of the best Rear Window homages I have seen - I won’t say too much as don’t want to spoil anything. The bar throughout gives a subtle nod of respect to the Master of Suspense. As any foodie will know, a suspense that any good dining experience should encapsulate.
“Man does not live by murder alone. He needs affection, approval, encouragement and, occasionally, a hearty meal”
Onto the food. This was good honest grub with outstanding finesse. Each course showcased high quality ingredients cooked to perfection, all locally sourced and with a complexity of flavour which really made you want to come back again. The calamari starter is a case in point, served as one would expect any calamari, but the batter is faultless and the freshness of the fish itself melts. That alone with a good glass of Vermouth would suffice. It was so tender I was transported back to the Spanish coast; an evocation of memories and feelings which all good food should conjure.
Freshness of ingredients then became a theme throughout the meal; the fillet steak was flawless, a glorious quality of meat with porcini, lightly accentuated with a sweet Madeira wine, a melody of flavours to make your palate sing.
The simplicity of good quality ingredients is one that should be more readily available, yet it is the one thing at which many places fail. Vertigo felt like a menu designed by food lovers for food lovers. Bar manager Steve expressed that the menu was a group experiment between them all and they took immense pride in developing the flavours to try out new things. They experimented and discovered some combinations that they are so excited to share. One of note is their belly pork and prawn starter: a suidae take on the bovine classic, yet equally as exciting. They have created the sweet and sour element to appease the rich meat with a dusting of beetroot dust and lime: something exciting enough to put a new take on such classic ingredients.
You can tell even by looking at the menu that these are people who love and understand good food. It is fun and traditional, yet with some exciting flare that elevates them to a new level. It also needs to be noted that they catered exquisitely to my dairy allergy and had a great understanding of cross contamination and alternatives.
As you would hope with a restaurant of such calibre, the drink knowledge was exceptional and drinks expert Alex offered us an exciting yet spot-on drink pairing option. He took some risks too, pairing my beef with a Diplomatico Rum and Orgeat Daiquiri, it complemented the complexity of the porcini and sweetness of the Madeira jus with a confidence, yet as a choice was brave – yet again adding to the experience.
On the whole, the entire experience of Vertigo has fun and class. It has a cosiness that would make it perfect for romancing, but a sense of fun that you would like to share with friends: a difficult to achieve balance that could see the resurrected Hitch himself lurking in the shadows, with a glass of something red.