It may sound like a brothel, but in York naming things after prostitutes is quite common. ‘The Blue Bicycle’, one of York’s best restaurants, is named for the brothel that once occupied the premises. Harlequin almost tries to be a secret. The concealed doorway is reminiscent of the Leaky Cauldron in Harry Potter. However, what appears to be unassuming and uninteresting from the outside, actually hides not just one, but two excellent coffee outlets. They are jointly run, of course, but both have a very distinct atmosphere and their own coffees and menus.
I decided to go to Harlequin first, and had not intended to have any more than a coffee in what has become a favourite of mine in York. Harlequin is furnished like a tea room, of which York is blessed with many good ones, very few of those have coffee like this. The coffee is provided by Has Bean, which produces both single-origin and blends of high quality. I tried their ‘Jailbreak’ blend in a flat white. It was a smooth, and rounded, nothing to offend the palette. It just dances on the tongue: and I wouldn’t suggest any less than two shots, unless you want a milkshake. With it, I had a brownie, drizzled in citrus and caramel. It was a little dry (it’s from a local bakery), but I like my brownie gooey. However, the flavour mixed perfectly with my flat white, to the point where I didn’t mind about the texture. The two accompanied each other perfectly. I would even go so far as to say the brownie brought out higher registers of flavour that the light coffee may have been limited by. Very enjoyable overall, and at £2 for a flat white, fairly reasonable too.
I had heard about the Attic upstairs, and it has been open for a while, but it has limited opening hours so I’ve not yet been there. After chatting to one of the waiters I was persuaded to try it. They have attempted to replace the stuffy ambience of the tea room with a more contemporary feel. And they’ve succeeded. The Attic is open and fresh, decorated with art and coffee paraphernalia. The available beans are on a board: you choose your beans and then you choose your method of brewing (espresso, slow-drip, aero press or Chimex). I chose aero press and found that the Revolver blend came out a bit weak, and though there were chocolate tones it lacked the real punch and consistency I have come to expect from aero press coffees. I don’t know why this was: it could have been poorly brewed, a problem with the beans, or maybe Revolver just doesn’t respond well to the aero press, but it wasn’t the quality I’ve come to expect from Harlequin.
Having been through the menu, I was surprised to see the Attic offered a different food offering to Harlequin. Particularly what caught my eye was the Yorkshire Platter (ham, pork pie, wensleydale, olives, pate and bread), which I chose to accompany with a Yorkshire beer (Rudgate brewery ‘Viking’). The beer, as this area boasts, is some of the best in the world, and Rudgate is no exception. Rich and hoppy, with a beautiful amber colour, this is fine, complex and multi-layered beer, which a more skilled beer-aesthete could give a brilliant description of. As it is, I’ll stick to describing the platter. The Yorkshire Platter is designed for two (but ‘plenty for one’, as the menu states) and utilises the quality local produce that Harlequin downstairs has made a name turning into sandwiches and salads. The pork pie is just superb, peppery and not too jellied. The food is hearty and filling, and at the price of 7.25 for all this, you can afford to feed yourself and a loved one. And they will love you all the more for it!