Accessible tapas!

Ambiente, Fossgate, York

We had a fun time at Ambiente in Fossgate, York, sharing various tapas dishes between four of us. Having eaten tapas galore in Spain, I would say that these seemed pretty authentic, although some were better than others.

Ambiente, Fossgate, York
Ambiente, Fossgate, York

They describe the food as having “a Yorkshire twist” – they use local as well as Spanish suppliers, for example, the morcilla is a mixture of local sausage meat and Spanish black pudding, round a quail’s egg, so it’s actually a delicious kind of Scotch egg.

The croquetas, patatas bravas, chorizo y patatas and buñuelos de pescado (fishcakes) were also fabulous. The pulpo (octopus) was good too but I wasn’t impressed by the gambas (prawns) or the champiñones (mushrooms) – a good excuse to try some of the other items on the menu next time! The bread was good too, a soft, herby focaccia.

Staff were pleasant and efficient. Pete had checked out the place in advance as we weren’t quite sure about negotiating the doorway: there is a bit of lip which is higher on one side than the other but with both doors open it was easy. The trickiest thing were the cobbles nearby. There is no actual parking for the restaurant, but there are parking bays in the street. According to the council website, those with a Blue Badge can park in them free of charge, although there was no mention of this on the parking meters. We pulled up in a nearby private parking area in order not to have to set up my power chair on the road. This meant negotiating some rather bumpy cobbles but nothing my chair couldn’t cope with. Pete then parked the car in a bay over the road.

Inside the restaurant there is plenty of room to manoeuvre and the tables are high enough that you can sit at them in a wheelchair. There is an accessible loo with grabrails – didn’t use it, though, so can’t describe it in detail. There was background music but not too loud. They have two branches in York as well as one in Leeds and Hull.

Here are some other eateries I’ve tried.


The Balloon Tree – accessible farm shop and café

Café at The Balloon Tree

This is a popular place! Even early on a Tuesday lunchtime, the café was pretty packed but we nabbed a table by the window and had a very tasty lunch, served by pleasant staff, before, inevitably, buying some take-home treats from the deli!

The Balloon Tree , Gate Helmsley
The Balloon Tree , Gate Helmsley

It was a bit early in the season for much home-grown veg, but that part of the shop was still well-stocked: not sure if some of it was imported, but they do generally sell locally-grown produce. The deli part sells cold meats, cheese, salads, bread, cakes, ready meals both fresh and frozen and loads more. Their website has details about their ethos of “fewer food miles – more farm yards.”

Entrance to The Balloon Tree
Entrance to The Balloon Tree

Access was easy: the car park had quite a few Blue Badge spaces although they were all full when we arrived but we managed to park on the end of a row so there was room to get out. Entry was easy: low thresholds that my powerchair could manage easily and although the produce part of the shop was a little tight, you could get round although it would be impossible to pass anybody else who was in there. The deli had more space and most of the shelves were easily reachable. The staff would have been happy to help if not.

Easy, level access at The Balloon Tree
Easy, level access at The Balloon Tree

The café tables were the sort where you can easily sit at them in a wheelchair. There was plenty of room as we headed to the table, although on the way back I needed a chair to be moved so I could get through but people were happy to help. They do hot meals as well as sandwiches, paninis, baked potatoes and homemade cakes. Many of the cakes are also sold in the shop so you can enjoy them at home too.

Café at The Balloon Tree
Café at The Balloon Tree

There is seating outside as well as a children’s play area and some animals to see and feed.

The Balloon Tree was easy to find, on the A166 just past Gate Helmsley. We’ll definitely be going back!

Other accessible places to eat.

Sutlers, York (or, that bar in what used to be the Army and Navy Stores)

Sutlers, York.

On the whole, it was rather fun and I’d go again. We went on a Monday night, arriving about 6.30 and it was pretty busy. Service was a bit slow and rather amateurish – they lost our drinks order so we reordered but didn’t get them until after the food started arriving! We had ordered from the ‘Ration Packs’ (small plates, rather like tapas) part of the menu and five dishes between three of us was fine as we weren’t up for a big meal – two or three of them came with delicious bread and the bill was incredibly reasonable. They also do burgers, steaks, salads, sandwiches and sharing platters as well as a range of other dishes.

Lower bar, Sutlers York (different seats to when we went!)
Lower bar, Sutlers York (different seats to when we went!)

Pete had checked the place out in advance for access – we sat in the lower part which has level access and an accessible loo. I think the main bar has level access too, but you’d have to leave the building and re-enter if you wanted the loo! The tables in this section were not the sort you can sit at in a wheelchair – I sat on one of their chairs. Some of the tables had bench seats but staff were very accommodating about swapping the seats around.

Sutlers, York.
Sutlers, York.

The food was tasty without being fabulous and some parts better than others, but on the whole I prefer it to the food at Bill’s which was our last foray into central York. You can park on Fossgate after 6.00pm (free for residents) and there are dropped kerbs or you could use Pavement as a drop-off as we did (the pavement is flush with the road).

To sum up: tasty enough food, pleasant staff if a little haphazard and a good, buzzy atmosphere – we’ll go again!

More reviews of accessible restaurants.

Tea among the trees!

Sylva café, Oakwood, Leeds

Sylva café at Oakwood, Leeds is something of a statement building – a very striking design, but it looks at home nestled among the trees and close by the restored Oakwood Clock.

The clock used to be in Leeds Market, but was moved here in 1912 and after a campaign by local traders the restored clock was unveiled in 2015. The whole area was revamped, including flower beds and a community vegetable garden and a farmers’ market is held once a month.

The café is wheelchair accessible – there’s a bit of a steep little slope then a sharp bend to keep you on the plank slope up to the door, but nothing too bad. The staff were helpful – they had cleared away a chair so I could sit at the table and we had tea and rather good cake – all their cakes are gluten free and they all looked scrumptious. The tea could have been a bit stronger but I’m told the coffee was very good!

The carpark outside gets very busy – we felt lucky to get a space – there is at least one Blue Badge space and there is more parking at the nearby supermarket although that would mean negotiating a steepish slope.

The café was quite full and therefore quite noisy as there isn’t anything soft to absorb sound but in fine weather you could sit outside. You can see their menus on the website, sandwiches, salads etc and in the evening, the upstairs is a bar.

I would go again – it’s definitely a good addition to the area.

Great access, and great staff. Food, not so much!

Bill's York

I generally like to support independent restaurants, so we were going to go to Mamma Mia’s but the slight step at the doorway looked like it might be a bit of an effort for my powerchair, plus, you have to pull up on the pavement outside, which isn’t ideal. We decided we’d give Bill’s a go instead as we’d had a couple of recommendations.

Bill's York
Bill’s York

Pete did a reccy beforehand and the staff were very helpful, showed him the accessible loo, (very spacious, plenty of grabrails) and told him it would be no problem to pop the chair somewhere out the way while we ate – they even said they had recharged someone’s chair recently!

Pulling up outside is no problem then you could leave your car there if you have a blue badge as it’s OK to park on yellow lines if you aren’t blocking anything, otherwise, you could do what we did and park on Lendal.

There are some booths but most of the tables are movable (some are up a step but plenty are level access – and properly level it is too – no bumpy threshold!) with good solid tables and easily moved chairs. They suggested we left the chair by the main door, so we disconnected the power – it was races weekend, didn’t want to take any chances! The décor is funky, the piped music quite loud, and as I said, the staff are great – really helpful with chairs and so on. I don’t know if they have had training but they were very aware of accessibility issues.

The food is OK but not brilliant – we had a meze between us all as a starter then four different mains and some puds so a reasonable range and while there was nothing wrong with any of it, you would expect better for the price. We’ve paid those prices in many a gastropub, for example, and got a much better meal. They did a very good decaff to finish up with – actually they brought it before the desserts – perhaps we should have specified but you would kind of expect it to come after or at least at the same time!

I had seen a comment on tripadvisor saying that the optional 10% service charge did not go to the staff, so we thought we might leave it separately but when we asked the waitress who had looked after us, she said the tips were divided between the staff.

In all, I’m glad we tried Bill’s and may go again but will continue to check out other accessible restaurants. As ever, the overall impression you get is a mixture of various aspects – the food is just one of them – and the overall impression was good.

Check out our other reviews of accessible restaurants.


Great Italian restaurant!

Mamma Mia,, Gillygate, York

We’ve been going to Mama Mia’s on Gillygate for years and it’s always good – food freshly made, staff friendly, buzzy atmosphere – we’ve even been treated to late-night liqueurs on occasion! In some restaurants it’s difficult to find something you want on the menu, here it’s difficult to choose because they all sound good – pizza, pasta, meat and fish dishes and the specials nearly always include fabulous fresh mussels!

Now then, access. On our latest visit, we got the cab to pull up right outside but even though we had booked a table near the door it was still a bit of a struggle, so after our meal my partner left the rest of us to chat while he popped home for my scooter as I realised the step at the entrance was only an inch or so high. I don’t think I could have scootered in although a wheelchair would be fine (and the loo is accessible and the furniture all moveable) but scooting out was fine – so easy that I practically ran into our car! All fine in the end! Have a look on Streetview if you don’t know Gillygate. You have to pull up outside – there is no parking, so you need to plan a bit.

For the more agile, there is a lovely patio garden out the back next to the city walls.

I definitely recommend this friendly, accessible restaurant.

Reviews of other accessible restaurants in or near York: The Lime House, GoodramgateMiddlethorpe Hall, YorkCedar Court Grand Hotel and Spa, YorkThe Parsonage Hotel and Restaurant, Escrick, N. Yorks

Mid-range restaurant, central York.

The Lime House, Goodramgate, York, is an independent restaurant which has been around a long while, so I thought they must be pretty good and whenever we’ve been past, it always looks cosy, so we decided to give it a go and we weren’t disappointed!

Without being top-notch gourmet, the food is very good, in fact my main course of black bream with seafood ravioli was absolutely gorgeous. The staff were pleasant, friendly and helpful and although the room was a bit chilly to start with it soon warmed up as more people arrived and the atmosphere was relaxed. I was a bit surprised that they don’t provide bread, even with my partner’s pâté starter – you have to order it as an extra, but other than that, the servings were generous and we didn’t have room for desert but enjoyed a decaff filter coffee to finish.

Access is reasonable – a small doorsill at the entrance would probably have been too much for my scooter but would be OK in a wheelchair I expect and there was room to manoeuvre inside. There is no downstairs loo so you wouldn’t want to make too long an evening of it! You can park on the double yellow lines outside if you have a blue badge and while we couldn’t book a specific table, they guaranteed us one in the front part of the restaurant so no table would be more than about five yards from the door.

I can definitely imagine going back.


See my review of the Cedar Court Grand Hotel & Spa, York

The Parsonage Hotel and Restaurant, Escrick, N. Yorks

The Parsonage, Escrick

We were invited here for Sunday lunch with family friends and overall the experience was great: private dining room, good company, relaxed atmosphere and pleasant staff. The setting is wonderful, especially on a sunny day with autumn colours everywhere and the gardens looked lovely. The food however was nothing special: I had a starter of prawns in a Marie Rose sauce straight out of a bottle, the roast pork main course was good without being great and the lemon tart dessert was somewhat stodgy; house wine was fine, coffee was good.

The Parsonage, Escrick
The Parsonage, Escrick

I couldn’t find anything on the website about access, so I rang to ask and was told that there is a side entrance which is accessible but we just needed to check with reception when we arrived that it was open. Getting round to the side entrance was no problem, and it felt like a proper garden entrance rather than just some random back door, but the threshold had rather a high lip to get over which gave quite a jolt. Inside had ramps and an accessible toilet and although getting into the bar was a little exact, it was manageable and the other rooms were perfectly spacious. Leaving at the end was problematic as the high threshold had a slight slope on the incoming side but none on the outgoing, so my scooter could not have coped with it and we had to lift it over. Presumably wheelchairs cope with it OK given that the place is geared for them generally.

On the whole, I like the way they have incorporated ramps without spoiling the character of the building and the staff were excellent at being welcoming and helpful but I would not rush back as the food was not something to go out of your way for.

George Hotel, West Bay, Dorset

In August 2015 we went for lunch at the George Hotel, West Bay to celebrate my father-in-law Tim’s 100th birthday. The pub is a short, level walk from his care home, very useful when negotiating a route with a wheelchair. There is (public) parking right outside if needed, including two wider, but not marked disabled, spaces. There is a shallow ramp up to the side entrance and we went through the public bar into the restaurant, a level and very accessible route, with sufficient space between tables. However, the pub was not busy, as it was 12.30 on Wednesday lunchtime on a dull and windy day. It may not have been so easy if the public bar had been full.

The restaurant also had plenty of space between the tables, and we were not the only party there with a wheelchair user. The staff were very accommodating and let us choose our preferred table when we pre-booked. The menu was comprehensive with the usual pub fare (lots of chips) and a good range of ‘specials’ on the board. We ordered a child sized portion for Tim senior and this was dealt with efficiently by the wait staff. The food was good, fresh, nicely cooked and presented and Tim was very happy with it. The restaurant had filled up by the time we left, but there were no problems getting the wheelchair out again. I believe there is a disabled toilet with no steps but I can’t report on this because no-one of our party used it.