Chef Bex Toppin previews York Minster’s Refectory restaurant menu

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A CHEF who started as an intern at Raymond Blanc’s two-star Michelin restaurant has unveiled her plans for York Minster’s new restaurant.

Diners at the city’s Refectory restaurant, which will open later this year under the direction of Chef Bex Toppin, can expect high-quality, seasonal ingredients from local suppliers, at reasonable prices.

York City Council’s planning committee unanimously agreed to grant planning permission for the new dining hall restaurant on the site of the former Minster School in December.

A new refectory restaurant in the former York Minster School.

The world-famous cathedral costs £22,000 a day to maintain and York Minster’s director of works and grounds, Alex McCallion, has previously told councilors the refectory will help with that.

The main restaurant in the ground floor lobby is likely to have a capacity of over 60 seats with breakfast and lunch options and evening menus; and smaller private reception rooms and dining rooms upstairs.

Breakfast and brunch options will range from traditional bacon sandwiches on local bread to kedgeree using locally smoked haddock.

Lunch and dinner will include a selection of small plates and brasserie-style seasonal dishes.

Plans are still being finalized, but the new team expects to have a small take-out counter during the day with homemade cakes, breakfast options and drinks.

York Press:

The Old Minster School

Bex and his partner Will Pearce opened Robinsons Cafe in Bishopthorpe Road in 2016, offering good quality but affordable meals.

They hope to bring this winning combination to the Minster’s new venture.

“Food at the Minster Refectory restaurant will be locally sourced as much as possible,” said Bex, who expects dishes to have two or three main elements that work well together.

“The idea is simple: let all the high-quality ingredients shine through, no problem. If the ingredients are good, you don’t need to do the same with the food.”

At Robinsons, the menu is backed by seasonal and local produce with worldly flavors from independent shops, butchers and grocers on York’s Bishy Road.

“We really want to continue to favor local, good quality and seasonal dishes at the Refectory restaurant,” she added.

One of the challenges they will face in the new restaurant is building full multi-course menus and preparing dishes for a new large restaurant.

“It’s a challenge, of course, but I’m really excited about this opportunity, to be able to prepare special and seasonal dishes, but in the much larger dining environment that we will have at the Refectory restaurant.”

She added: “Upstairs has stunning views of the cathedral which will be amazing for special occasions. I can see it’s very, very popular.”

Bex, originally from Darlington, started as a trainee chef in 2007 at Raymond Blanc’s two-star Michelin, Oxfordshire Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison.

She spent two years under chef Kerry Atkinson at Rockcliffe Hall, Co. Durham, where she met Will, who was running past the house.

They moved to the Channel Islands together, working with head chef Saun Rankin in Ormer Jersey, where, with Bex in the kitchen and Will as assistant restaurant manager, they achieved a Michelin star after just four months.

After working at Yorebridge House in the Yorkshire Dales, they launched Robinsons in York in 2016.

They are now part of the Refectory restaurant development team which also includes The Star Group of Restaurants, GEM Construction (York) Ltd. and Rachel McLane Ltd.

Chef Andrew Pern, of the Star Group of Restaurants, is one of two principal investment partners along with Mike Green of GEM Construction, and brings the expertise and resources of such restaurants, including The Star at Harome and The Star Inn the City, York.

Bex said: “While Andrew and I will work closely together, people can expect the Minster Refectory restaurant to be quite a different concept from the Star.”

The plans for the restaurant remain subject to the final planning permit as part of a contractual transaction.

Minster School closed in the summer of 2020 when The Chapter York, who were responsible for maintaining, managing and operating the Minster Estate, decided it was not financially viable.

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