The two colonies of industrious residents are already supplying honey to The Grand’s newest restaurant – Legacy – for inclusion into a mouth-watering dessert.
The grade 2 listed building housing most of The Grand is just a couple of minutes’ walk from York station, through a wide arch in the medieval city walls, red brick warm against the ancient grey stone.
Opened in 1906 as the HQ for the North Eastern Railway, it was converted to a hotel in 2010 with parquet flooring and keystone-corniced arches retained, and is now home to Legacy with an intimate new eight-course tasting menu devised by head chef Ahmed Abdalla. Seating just 26 covers, it is a welcoming and intimate space where diners get the full attention of Ahmed and restaurant manager Derek Scaife.
Ahmed treats us to a juicy venison haunch bonbon that coats your mouth with smoky sweetness. This is familiar food but done with a firm eye on getting the most flavour from hero ingredients sourced as close to The Grand as possible with fish from Whitby and vegetables from Malton. My favourite dish – Jersey royal veloute with oak-smoked cheddar and chicken skin crumb – is the most refined version of cheesy chips I’ve encountered and comes with a delicate oak leaf shaped wafer for extra crunch.
A close second is the celeriac with black garlic; prettily decorated with tiny nasturtium leaves and covered in a cloud of truffle that adds to the richness of the sweet root vegetable. The pairing for this one is a Scandinavian cider - Brännland Iscider is no fizzy froth, rather a deeply caramel nectar that makes me want to go out and shake a few frozen apple trees to help the next press.
The fish course is a dense but sweet halibut with the lightest mousseline sauce followed by a tender trio of Yorkshire lamb from a local farm.
When the desserts and cheese plate roll round, we are reunited with our friends, the rooftop bees. Lush honey ice cream and panna cotta are served with zings of yuzu and elderflower to balance out that home-harvested sweetness and there is sliced honeycomb direct from the frame to add to our cheese plate.
Once the hives are up to full strength the honey will infuse a house gin in partnership with Yorkshire distillery Masons, just 35 miles up the A1.
When I checked in, there was a Viking in my bed – Viktor, a charming soft toy included in welcome packs for children along with a scavenger hunt map, bath bombs and “grand dollars” for a grown-up hotel experience.
York itself is a treasure trove of activity, from the famous Jorvik Viking Centre to Clifford’s Tower with its new roof deck offering unrivalled views. The National Railway Museum is barely 10 minutes walk and the array of spooky ghost tours in what is said to be the UK’s most haunted city.
The Grand also offers stargazing trips to the North York Moors with an astronomer on hand to share with you the wonders of the dark skies.
A choice of rooms and suites includes the penthouse and interconnecting rooms for family groups.
The hotel’s other dining room Rise is open for breakfast and evening meals, with the afternoon tea saving you from queueing at Betty’s tea rooms and an outdoor terrace includes a terrarium to shelter in with a view of the city walls.
If you’re feeling creative, The Grand has an in-house cookery school including modern world street food, French brasserie classics and parent-and-child gingerbread classes.
Northern hospitality is key to The Grand’s brand – and staff make it feel like a home from home.
The words “Grand” and “York” have long gone hand-in-hand, and not just in the nursery rhyme. With the arrival of Legacy, York’s dining scene has become that bit grander too.
How to plan your trip
Classic double rooms at The Grand (thegrandyork.co.uk) start at £255 on a B&B basis while grand heritage suites start at £515.
The eight-course tasting menu is £120pp with £60 for the classical wine flight and £90 for the prestige option.