HOW lovely to visit York in the festive season. Wandering along cobbled streets, browsing in quirky old shops and taking selfies by the mighty Minster, bathed in a golden glow of winter sunshine, it felt like being in a Christmas card.

We bought festive gifts and sipped mulled wine at the lively Christmas market, meandered through the Shambles, a time capsule of overhanging Elizabethan buildings, and enjoyed soup and sandwiches at the Theatre Royal cafe.

Make a point of looking up when walking around York - you might spot some of the feline statues on the Cat Trail. Turning into Stonegate, we encountered Gordon, a one-eyed ginger cat taken in as a stray by my friend and T&A colleague Helen Mead. Her beloved moggie is immortalised in stone, peering down from a shop doorway.

My friend Suzanne and I stayed at The Judge’s Lodging, a chic city centre hotel set in a Grade I listed Georgian townhouse. The property dates back to the early 1700s when it was built as a private residence for a York physician. In 1806 it became the residence for judges attending quarterly sessions at the Assize court at York Castle, remaining so until 1976. In 2012 the building was acquired as a hotel by Daniel Thwaites, which has carried out major refurbishments.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The elegant frontage of the historic hotel The elegant frontage of the historic hotel (Image: Newsquest)

The hotel is beautifully furnished, with quirky details reflecting its story. In the reception area judges’ faces are carved in stone on the wall. There are more judges in portraits adorning the sweeping Georgian oak staircase - the only one of its kind in the UK. Climbing the stairs felt like following the footsteps of legal heavyweights from the past.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A Christmas tree takes pride of place in reception - note the carved judges' heads behind A Christmas tree takes pride of place in reception - note the carved judges' heads behind (Image: Newsquest)

Bedrooms include cosy doubles in the courtyard and grand feature rooms. Our spacious top floor Character Room, with elegant bespoke furniture, overlooked York Minster, shimmering beneath a sprinkling of snow. The newly refurbished en suite has a luxurious deep bath, curved ceiling and elegant lighting.

The hotel has wooden panelled rooms with original shutters. In the dining room, hidden behind a secret panel, is a chamber pot once used by judges and other gentlemen diners - now concealed by a window shutter.

We dined in the Judge’s Lodging elegant restaurant, 1711, awarded two AA Rosettes just five months after its launch. Led by Philippine-born head chef Marlon Sanchez - previously at Michelin-starred restaurant The Black Swan at Oldstead and classically trained at the Culinary Institute of Barcelona - the bijou restaurant offers a contemporary menu with an Asian twist and Mediterranean flavours.

Says Marlon: “York’s food scene is constantly evolving and 1711 delivers a unique food offering by blending ingredients from Yorkshire all the way to Asia to create the rich fusion cuisine that I am so passionate about.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The 1711 Restaurant offers a contemporary twist The 1711 Restaurant offers a contemporary twist (Image: Daniel Thwaites)

We began with an amuse bouche treat - garlic turkey and fish. Starter choices included Monkfish Pil-pil, venison carpaccio and smoked mackerel. I went for tempeh - polenta, asparagus, crispy parmesan, tasty and beautifully presented with a vibrant yellow corn sauce. Suzanne had a bowl of delicious French onion soup with sourdough and Ribblesdale cheese - just the thing for a snowy evening.

Main courses included roasted pheasant, spinach tagliatelle and paella negra. I went for pan seared salmon, vinegar glazed in a divine caramelised-style crispy skin, with lobster sauce, hen of the woods mushroom, Arenka caviar, seasonal vegetables and a side order of chunky chips. A fabulous fish dish fizzing with international flavours.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Emma's pan seared salmon in crispy skinEmma's pan seared salmon in crispy skin (Image: Newsquest)

Suzanne tucked into hearty braised ox cheek, a richly tasty dish served with pancetta, silver skin onions and chive pomme puree.

We were spoilt for choice with the dessert menu, which offered Crema Catalana - traditional Spanish custard and mango sorbet - and sticky toffee pudding with Ube ice-cream and Pandan custard. In the end neither of us could resist the Pavlova, with seasonal fruits, garden herbs and sorbet.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The menu blends rich Asian and Mediterranean flavoursThe menu blends rich Asian and Mediterranean flavours (Image: Daniel Thwaites)

With window seats overlooking city views, the restaurant blends the grandeur of the property with an exciting contemporary menu. Our meal was served by a lovely member of staff; she explained each dish and encouraged us to try something new. The hotel staff were delightful throughout our stay; friendly, attentive, and a mine of local information.

A short walk from the train station, the Judge’s Lodging is ideally placed for York’s main attractions. Brave York Dungeons; explore the Castle Museum, where Victorian streets have been given a Dickensian-style festive makeover; join a chocolate-making workshop at York Chocolate Factory; journey back to 975 AD at JORVIK, bringing the city’s past to life with dioramas, sights and smells of the Viking Age; or roam through The Shambles, one of the best-preserved medieval streets in Europe, with an array of shops and, for Harry Potter fans, the inspiration for Diagon Alley. The famous 7th century Minster has 275 steps leading to panoramic views of the city.

We enjoyed a hearty cooked breakfast in the hotel’s delightfully quirky Cellar Bar, where a row of servants’ bells is among the historic features. With a seasonal menu and a range of drinks including cocktails and Thwaites ales, it’s a snug haven with a relaxed vibe.

It was a treat to spend a festive break at this fabulous hotel. Steeped in history, with a cool 21st century vibe, it’s a place I won’t forget.

* The Judge’s Lodging, Lendal, York. Call (01904) 638733 or visit

1711 is open Wednesday to Saturday, 12pm-3pm for lunch and 6pm-9pm for dinner.