Illustration: Henry Makin [insta] @henrymakin
Words: Rebecca Boulton [insta] @kennedysyork
Google ‘York’ at Christmas and you’ll be transported to a Dickensian novel, with clichéd mulled wine, carol singers and cobbled streets. However, a wintery night out for us Yorkies is very different.
Weaving and dodging the late-night shoppers is a fine art for any local wanting to find the nearest open fire to slump next to and a pint to sink into. Favourite festive haunts include the Mucky Duck (aka The Old White Swan) and Spark with its covered roof and heaters amongst the smell of fried chicken and hot ramen.
Parliament Street is where the tourists flock to the Christmas Markets, and with the irresistible and unmistakable smell of Scandi style sausages from the Shambles Kitchen stall, who can blame them?
York is rich with live music too. There’s an open mic or two happening somewhere every night of the week, and then there’s the dedicated venues. Personal favourites are The Crescent, Fibbers and Basement – all relatively central and easy to stumble to.
Once we’ve clocked off at Kennedys’, we head deep down into Sotano for post shift cocktails and craft beers. It’s one of the only spots where fellow industry workers gather to seek refuge in the dimly lit, late night funk and soul. And if we’ve timed it right we catch the last of the Spanish cheese and Iberico ham that Chef Marta has spare from the evening’s food service.
Words: Mannie Monaghan [insta] @belowstairsbar
Going out between now and Christmas can, on the one hand, be a beautiful moment spending time with friends and family, and on the other, expose you to big groups of people who through no fault of their own might impact on your enjoyment of a night out. So, between now and Christmas, I’d suggest supporting some of your local businesses, of which we’re lucky to have many of in this brilliant city. Regardless of where you go, at this time of year it’s always wise to plan ahead so that you’re not disappointed.
At Below Stairs, we’re 100% table-service, so you can sit down with friends or family and have a lovely chilled out evening without battling for the bar. It can be a hectic time of year, but we like to think of ourselves as refuge from all the hustle and bustle. If you’re in a couple or small group then a similarly cosy space to check out is Poison, below Bar Remedy, where they prioritise providing amazing service and drinks above all else.
Just up the road from there is The Watermark, a newish independent venue opened by two Leeds bartenders. It’s an awesome bar that can go from a relaxing couple of drinks all the way through to a full-on party on the right night! It’s also worth exploring the suburbs; in Chapel Allerton, the outstanding Waywards Wines is a bottle shop that also serve wines to drink by the glass, where they’re always happy to guide you through their extensive Natural Wine selection and pick you out something you’ll love.
Call me old fashioned, but I love to go to venues where I know they genuinely care about what they do, and their primary motivation is providing great experiences for people. At a time of year that can sometimes feel all too commercial, going to the right venue can reconnect you with the very human core of the festive period – a desire to be with the people we love and value, and revel in each others quirks, kindness and generosity.