Jill Turton visits York wine bar turned sister restaurant Cave du Cochon and finds herself wolfing down the sweetest black pudding that she has ever had.

Cave du Cochon
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I’ve eaten black pudding all over: at the Star Inn at Harome in Andrew Pern’s signature dish of black pudding and foie gras; at the old La Grillade in Leeds on Guy Martin-Laval’s steak and boudin noir. I’ve had triangles of Doreen’s black pudding and rounds of Stornoway black pudding for breakfast at countless B&Bs. And as a child, I even watched it being made when my grandad boiled vats of real black puddings (none of your dried blood and plastic wrap) at Rose’s butcher and pork pie factory in Burnley. Yes, I am a black pudding heiress.
That’s not to say if I think too hard about the fat and pig’s blood that goes into black pudding I’m not a bit squeamish, but I do enjoy it now and again and, to my surprise, never more so than at Cave du Cochon in York, but more of that later.

sourdough bread

Cave du Cochon is sister to Cochon Aveugle, Josh Overington’s much-vaunted restaurant a few doors down on Walmgate. The Cave, as the name suggests, has for some years been a very good wine bar where you could relax on benches and enjoy a decent bottle and eat from a simple blackboard menu offering sharing boards. There might be a hotpot and maybe cheese fondue. It was always good, but now that everyone’s got into the sharing boards thing the Cave is moving on.
At the back they’ve created a kitchen in what used to be an additional dining/drinking area so that they can cook in-house some of the dishes from Cochon Aveugle’s menu and at a considerably cheaper price than its eight-course tasting menu at £60 a head.
It’s all chalked up on the board and, while the meats and cheese sharing boards are still there, there’s a lot more besides. We counted 19 dishes and five desserts on our visit, priced from £3 for one smoked oyster with vin jaune granita to £14 for guinea fowl or “half pig’s head” with condiments at £20 for two. Most dishes are around £8.
We chose seven dishes between three of us plus some excellent full-flavoured sourdough with their own made butter. I’m presuming they use the leftover buttermilk to make the cracking buttermilk fried chicken.
One of the best dishes of the night was a plate of earthy, salt-baked beetroot and sweet figs topped with a pouch of burratina that broke open to reveal its soft, liquidy mozzarella and cream centre which acted nicely as a dressing for the salad.
In a throwback to the Sixties, there were escargots with garlic butter, then serrano ham consommé that was too salty but included some juicy mussels and faro. A generous leg of guinea fowl came in a game broth with poached veg and a rich aioli.
But it was their black pudding that blew us away, warm little rounds sandwiched between black macarons. I’d wrongly expected savoury. Not a bit of it, these were coal black … and sweet. It’s a favourite at Cochon Aveugle. I’m not surprised. The combination of sweet and savoury, crunch and earthy softness was exquisite. I could have eaten half a dozen.
For pudding, blackberry and apple strudel was fine, so was “dirty affogato”, the latter being a full-on ice cream filled with chunks of sourdough laced with cinnamon and dulce du leche with an espresso on the side to pour over.
And the wine bar’s wine? I do admire restaurants that don’t automatically reach for an off-the-peg list of safety-first grape varieties, and instead source from small growers and boutique vineyards.
Of course, this can be a cover for whacking up the prices when none of us have heard of said grower and have no idea of what a fair mark-up should be. But not here, a conviction supported by a severely discerning friend who has won top level wine-tasting competitions including this paper’s annual wine quiz and definitely approves of Cave du Cochon’s list.

Boudin Noir macaron

Even so, bluffer confession alert, ordering a bottle of Marcotte Blanc, Maison Laurent Cazottes, a blend of Mauzac and Loin de L’Oeil grapes from south-west France, was a shot in the dark for me. “Light and refreshing”, our server elaborated and told us how they bottled it themselves via the KeyKeg system. A system the French cheerfully embrace but we snobbish Brits associate with the ghastly wine boxes of our past. At £22 a bottle, the Marcotte was the real deal.
A final passing thought. See if you can ensure a downstairs table. When we arrived the street-level room was pleasantly buzzing. The sommelier was dispensing wisdom on wine, the candles were lit, conversation was winning the battle over the music speakers, it was just the atmosphere you would have wanted from a wine bar.
Instead we were ushered upstairs to a perfectly attractive room which, but for us, remained quite empty for the length of our meal. On the way out, downstairs was still lively. It felt like we had missed the party. Andrew Pern, of the Star at Harome, once remarked that of all his restaurants around Yorkshire, his favourite space was the bar at the original Star. I know what he means. You want to be at the heart of things. And Cave du Cochon has a splendid, beating heart.
Cave du Cochon, 19 Walmgate, York YO1 9TX; tel 01904 633669; www.caveducochon.uk; open: Wednesday and Thursday, 5pm-midnight, Friday-Sunday, noon-midnight; price: dinner for two with wine and service approximately £80.

About The Author

Jill Turton is a freelance food and travel journalist who writes for numerous publications. She inspects restaurants for national food guides and is a regular reviewer for the Yorkshire Post. Jill is author of Good Food in Yorkshire and the Time Out Guide to the Lake District and with Mandy Wragg writes the Yorkshire online food guide www.squidbeak.co.uk'

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