Discover the menu at York’s newest fine dining restaurant, Legacy at The Grand, York
We caught up with the man behind the eight-course tasting menu, Head Chef Ahmed Abdalla to find out his culinary inspiration, what we can expect and what makes his restaurant unique.
Today is the day that York’s newest fine-dining restaurant opens its doors in the heart of one of the UK’s top five-star hotels: The Grand, York (we’d be lying to say we haven’t been counting down the days for this).
Inside Legacy, you’ll get a taste of luxury thanks to their memorable culinary experience on offer – with an indulgent eight-course tasting menu that’s been carefully curated with locally sourced ingredients and a wine pairing led by an in-house sommelier.
But what makes this dining destination so unique is Head Chef Ahmed Abdalla, who personally greets guests and brings the delicious dishes to life by talking through some of the collaborations of flavours on the menu.
The best part of any fine dining restaurant is of course the food. And with each dish pulled together to create a seasonal flavour sensation, we caught up with the man behind the magic, Ahmed, to find out where he gets his inspiration and how he’s feeling about the grand opening.
How do you feel about opening today?
It feels surreal after watching everything grow since our first meeting. Our room has been designed and finished, we’ve curated the menu, chosen our crockery and now we’ve got guests booking in. I’ve been involved in everything which has allowed me to pour my inspiration and creativity into every aspect of the guest journey – I’ve dreamt about this since leaving college.
Our restaurant started as a blank canvas and it’s very rewarding to see all the hard work that has been put into this by our team to see how far we have come. It feels exciting to be able to bring something new to the table.
Where did you get the inspiration for your menu from?
It has come from my time and experience in restaurants I have previously worked at a across the UK and of course, our beautiful surroundings of Yorkshire. I try to not force my inspiration but given that we are a five-star hotel and the name of the restaurant being Legacy, which is a big and bold statement, we must have ingredients and a menu that matches that.
The ethos behind our restaurant is sustainability, the legacy left by our previous pioneers, who built the ground that is part of York’s history. To present this I looked into certain bold ingredients for my menu like my fish, I chose halibut which is often referred to as the king of the sea and all my ingredients are high-end and sustainable. I make sure that all our produce from local suppliers is of the highest quality, I speak to them to find out what’s in season which helps me with inspiration and with serving the freshest food in my dishes.
How would you describe your menu?
Bold, exciting and seasonal. However, there are certain dishes that I can see staying on the menu for quite some time. For example, my Grand Honey dessert, where we use honey from our bees on our rooftop. I use it for my cheese course as well, where I have an actual honeycomb frame and go out to the table at the end of the meal with it to allow the guests to cut a cube of honey straight from the honeycomb. What I have found is that not a lot of people have done that before which is special and makes our restaurant stand out.
How would you describe your ‘style’ of cooking?
I’d say modern British with European and Asian influences and new classical French techniques. However, I have my own press on things from what I’ve picked up along the way and try to make every dish my own.
What do you love about tasting menus?
A tasting menu is a story about the kitchen, the team, the front of house and you can see the level of detail people have put into things. The thought process is fascinating for example why has the chef got two canapés on the plate, two fish courses and only one protein course? It tells you a lot about the chef and their background and experience. I wanted my menu to be more intimate with the guests. It’s an exciting experience as you don’t know what to expect, you read some tasting menus and they give you just the name of the dish and then you get a surprise to see what it’s paired with when it’s served.
You have decided to meet guests to personally introduce yourself and run through your menu. Why is it important for you to do that?
We don’t have an open kitchen, but I wanted to find a way to make dining at Legacy an intimate experience. I also feel it’s important to talk guests through our produce, the dishes and the flavours, so with this in mind, I decided to personally meet guests.
In my experience when I leave somewhere and the chef has spoken to me or I see the chef, I immediately remember that and it becomes more of a personal experience and not just a meal. To be able to be part of providing an experience to guests rather than just a meal gives that personal touch and makes them feel welcomed and respected.
What makes you different to other fine dining restaurants in York?
I believe we have the potential to become one of York’s top fine dining restaurants. I know I’m biased but I do believe we have the best-looking restaurant up North thanks to our fantastic interior designers Faber and I’ve added my own personal touch, too. As soon as you walk through the door, I can guarantee you’ll be blown away.
Our menu is going to be different from most places due to my own unique twist where you get the chance to taste new flavour sensations and with every visit, our menu will be different due to seasonal changes, so no meal here will be the same. The experience we provide is very intimate which you won’t find elsewhere. The Grand is also the only five-star hotel in York, so having that title makes us stand out for those guests who are wanting to have a luxurious evening.
We know it’s probably hard to answer but what is your favourite dish on the menu?
We’ve done two weeks of soft openings, one for our Grand team members and one for industry professionals. In the first week, I had one favourite which was my dessert, Grand Honey, and then into this last week, it’s my salt-baked Celeriac dish with black garlic, truffle and hazelnuts, which I’ve received the best feedback about. Although it’s just a vegetable the flavours are amazing, from the salt baking process. The dish is very exciting, with the truffle in it and the honey made from our rooftop bees, as well as the sweetness from the hazelnuts, it has a really luxurious feel to it.
Why is being sustainable important to you?
We’ve created a green team within the hotel, whose main focus is to try and come up with ways and interesting ideas to take us to the next level of being an ever-sustainable hotel. It’s always been on the agenda but now it’s at the top of the list for most places. We’re no longer thinking about ourselves or the next six months, we’re now starting to think about the impact ten years from now.
Anything we can do, we will do. Our uniforms are made from recycled materials, we have been working on reducing food waste and how we are recycling. As we are an established hotel, we must set standards and hopefully, diners and guests take something away from that and see it as if big organisations and business are thinking like that, what can I do at home?
We know you’re keen to work with charities and organisations. Have you got anything planned for the near future?
It’s always been a thing of mine to want to help others and as I’ve got older it’s how I can do this through my profession. York is a very small community, in terms of hospitality industry personnel, everybody knows each other and everybody goes through the same issues whether that be big or small, this industry can be very stressful to work in.
So, since I started at The Grand I’ve been looking at ways to work with charities. We are hosting a Burnt Chef dinner in September. The Burnt Chef Project provides mental health support for the UK hospitality trade. At the dinner The Burnt Chef Project founder, Chris will do a speech and then I’ve invited Doncaster College students to help us on the night too. We’re going to have raffle tickets and selling tickets for the event with all proceeds going towards Burnt Chef. I’m also keen to work with Hospitality Action, which helps hospitality people back on their feet again after a setback, in the future too.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I want to see Legacy grow within the hospitality circle in York and I hope people start to recognise all the hard work that we’ve done. We’ve recently won the Cateys Awards Hotel of the Year award which was lovely after the year we had last year. If we can go on to win another award next year such as the best new restaurant that would be amazing.