The Judges Lodging, York: hotel review - Halong Junk Cruises

The Judges Lodging, York: hotel review

Historically, the beer garden at Judge’s Lodging – where you drink under a gorgeous canopy of trees beside ivy-clad walls – seemed relatively off-grid, a redoubt from York’s tourist hordes. If that was ever true, it isn’t now.

Recently revamped by its latest owner, Thwaites, this 21-bedroom Georgian townhouse is now a labyrinth of spaces. The vaulted cellar bar has been overhauled, a dining room rather crammed in, and a cask ale bar opened: Thwaites beers are pretty dull, but its seasonal lemongrass Pure Shores and Treboom’s citrussy Yorkshire Sparkle were OK. That cask bar then leads out onto a rear terrace decked out in swish, low-slung furniture, a somewhat incongruous slice of Mediterranean beach bar in the centre of historic York.

This is a big operation and, even on a Monday, steadily busy all night. It isn’t hard to see why. The sun is out, drink is flowing and, allowing for the logistical shortcuts common in such corporate venues (decent dressed crab on a tokenistic salad; a “pie” that is actually stew with a puff pastry lid), the food is pretty good. That homemade, slow-cooked beef ’n’ ale pie-not-pie is tasty, the mash well-worked. For £11 it is serviceable pub grub.

Like the populist menu, however, Judge’s Lodging lacks distinctive personality. With its designer Chesterfield sofas and tables made from old, reclaimed doors, its nooks of books and board games, its “quirky” clutter (lamps made from old irons, say), it riffs unimaginatively on a mixture of Farrow & Ball and self-consciously funky – huge outdoor mirrors on the terrace. It looks as if it could have all been bought, boxed from a trade interiors catalogue, yesterday. God forbid Judge’s should overdo any legal theme, but bespoke sculptures of two adversarial lawyers or the judge’s wig tea cosy in my bedroom were rare flashes of originality.

For all its handsome reproduction antique furniture and chic grey fabrics, my bedroom felt similarly impersonal. Fresh milk was a nice touch undermined by bought-in biscuits that, like the ugly paper bin, smacked of bean-counting, box-ticking hospitality. Likewise, Villeroy & Boch fixtures and H2K toiletries gave the (bland) bathroom a veneer of luxury, but Thwaites’ £2.2m makeover had not extended to regrouting the floortiles properly or boosting the rather underpowered shower.

That contradictory lack of fastidiousness – average croissants and orange juice, terrific Eggs Benedict – continued at breakfast. The lesson? If you want passion, book independent lodging.

Accommodation was provided by Judge’s Lodging, 9 Lendal, York, 01904 638733, judgeslodgingyork.co.uk. Doubles from £104 rooms, B&B . Travel between Manchester and York was provided by First TransPennine Express (tpexpress.co.uk). For more on York information see visityork.org.

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