The bistro and eatery
Mannion & Co Kitchen styles itself a daytime ‘eatery and café’ though it feels more like a cross between a French bistro and a Shoreditch coffee house. It’s informal, relaxed and cool.
Cool enough for the chef/patron to wear a leather apron to dispense what is arguably the best coffee in Helmsley (from UE coffee roasters in Oxfordshire) served with handmade biscotti. Cool enough to serve porchetta with hazelnut pesto or meatballs with Reblochon cheese in a thick ciabatta sandwich.
Charcuterie boards loaded with meat, cheese, olives, capers, pickles and olive oil focaccia are delivered to tables upstairs and down. The counter is heaped with salamis and cheeses and fat sausage rolls. Gorgeous patisserie features frangipanes, apricot tarts and petit sponge cakes topped with fruit.
The story behind Mannion’s belongs to Andrew Burton and his wife Lucy. She is the Mannion - her Mum and Dad ran a fruit and veg shop on York’s Blake Street for 25 years until they handed the premises over to Lucy and Andrew to turn into what has become an excellent little bistro. Around the corner, come rain or shine, Mum and Dad still run their fruit and veg stall on York market.
Once the York bistro was established, Andrew and Lucy opened in Helmsley. Lucy works behind the scenes while Andrew is the face and the brains behind Mannion & Co. It’s a face that is sometimes rather serious - ‘We’re just being professional,’ he says but his thoughtful exterior hides an irreverent sense of fun that comes out when he teases his team who are busying round him serving customers, settling bills and being generally useful. It feels a happy place.
Across the room, the chefs at the open plan kitchen are just as chirpy, building sandwiches and preparing the daily specials. Everything is made in-house: bread, scones, the signature fat sausage rolls and ‘showstopper’ meringues the size of elephants’ feet to go wickedly with strawberries and cream; the beef ragu with truffle and Parmesan polenta, or roast chicken shakshuka with duck egg, harissa, ducckha and focaccia.
If shakshuka and dukkha sound a little rarified for a proper country market town like Helmsley, fear not. The place is packed. ‘We encourage them to try something new,’ says Andrew. ‘Most are happy to give it a go.’ One such dish is a liberally fish-filled fishcake in panko crumbs with katsu sauce and Asian broccoli. It is terrific. ‘The guys here have loads of new ideas,’ says Andrew, ‘and I’m happy to let them run with it.’
While executive chef Dale Excelby and the young team are pushing the ingredient boundaries, Andrew remains true to the simple vision of offering good food, quality ingredients in an informal setting. That’s why some of Yorkshire’s top chefs eat here. Upstairs having lunch with his family is Andrew Pern of the Star Inn at nearby Harome. It’s not just that they’re old mates - Andrew Burton has worked at the Star - but because Pern knows good food when he sees it and is tucking into a sandwich loaded with pork belly and harissa mayo washed down with a glass of chilled Pecorino. I think I’ll have what he’s having.