Not to be confused with excellent Root in the South West, Roots is the Banks family’s follow-up to the highly-regarded The Black Swan at Oldstead. Originally launched as a more low-key counterpoint to the family’s countryside-based flagship that offered dishes to be shared, the pandemic saw the city centre venture pivoted to offer a weekly-changing set menu.
This change of tack has gone down very well indeed, with Roots having now dialled things up even more to offer a tasting menu that’s roughly in-line with that served at Black Swan at Oldstead (both restaurants hold a Michelin star). Inspired by the family’s farming heritage, showcases seasonal produce through cutting-edge cooking techniques.
Overseen by high-profile chef Tommy Banks and cooked day-to-day by Will Lockwood, the food is broadly modern British. The cooking is focused, with dish descriptions listing key ingredients followed by the cooking methods that have been applied to them (a neat solution for giving diners a sense of what is coming next).
Typical dishes include cold-smoked raw deer with artichoke and yeast; steamed crab on toast with caviar; and a clever dessert of potato and chicory root that plays around with the flavours and textures of tiramisu. Overseen by Tommy’s sommelier brother James, the drinks side of Roots is comprehensive, with the venue offering a cocktail list that is focused on preserving ingredients in-house while in season and a killer wine list that offer no less than 130 bins by the glass.
Set within a characterful 19th-century building in the city centre close to the River Ouse, Roots blends contemporary and traditional design elements with key features including handmade rugs, wood-panelling, exposed brick and bespoke tables that nod to the roots theme. Almost accidentally, the group now has another top-flight restaurant on its hands. Those lamenting the loss of a more casual option for the group will be pleased to know the Banks family launched a rural pub - The Abbey Inn - to the north of York in 2023.