Review: Healthy start for Filmore & Union's first two-storey restaurant

Part of the upstairs restaurant in Filmore & Union on Station Parade in Harrogate.
Part of the upstairs restaurant in Filmore & Union on Station Parade in Harrogate.

"Pure, natural and wholesome" says the legend above the name of Fillmore & Union. To that could be added words like healthy", "enjoyable", and "relaxed."

From a single outlet in 2011, Filmore & Union has been a runaway success with a chain of similar but far from identical establishments now doing well in Leeds, York, Wetherby and beyond.

The Harrogate branch of this stylish, locally-based group of cafes, delis and restaurants moved home just a few weeks ago.

The move involved, perhaps, only a distance of 100 yards but it’s a big step for Filmore & Union and it's dynamic owner Adele Ashley, who was recently nominated as Yorkshire Business Woman of the Year 2016.

Its original location at 3 Station Square on James Street in Harrogate, a single-storey, single room affair, was a bit, well, ‘pokey’.

Now that it’s situated on two floors on a swish row of shops at 71 Station Parade this trendsetting mini-empire can afford to loosen its belt a little.

There’s real ambition here - a cafe downstairs and sheltered seating outside, front and back, with heaters for when it's cold.

And there's also a whole separate restaurant upstairs.

Filmore’s first two-floor restaurant has got the lot.

It's a sign of the sort of deft touch which has made Filmore & Union so successful that when I visited the restaurant for supper one Saturday night recently none of this registered as hard work.

All that came across amid the hustle and bustle was good food in a relaxed contemporary setting with friendly service.

Despite Filmore & Union’s commitment to healthy eating and the preponderance of buzz words like “fresh”, “gluten free” and “nutritional” this is no po-faced mission to change the way we eat, well, only if enjoyment is squarely on the menu, too.

Having had a very nice lunch downstairs one Saturday, I returned a fortnight later to try dinner upstairs.

Despite only opening its doors for the first time a week or two before, it’s packed.

There’s a definite buzz around the room as I take my seat with a comfy blanket draped over the back but it’s calming, not loud.

Awash in a rustic timber and open brickwork, Filmore Union’s interior design opts for a naturally lived-in but quietly swish look - the slightly shabby chic style common to much of contemporary dining these days.

But, unlike some of its bigger, nationwide competitors, the Filmore & Union's interior blueprint is less formulaic, more individual with a lighter touch than some I could mention.

In the case of the upstairs restaurant this is almost literally the case.

The atmosphere is perfect; the tone set by those muted lights hanging low from the ceiling, something they experimented with again and again until it was just right, front of house manager Chris assures me as I scan the menu.

Although it’s only two weeks until Christmas, I decide to go to the heart of the regular evening menu at Filmore & Union rather than its Christmas specials.

Not even those gluten-free mince pies packed with juicy raisons, festive cranberries, pistachios and goji berries can tempt me from the course I’ve set.

Sure enough, as the branding says, this is feel-good, look-great food, in touch with the brave new world of superfoods without being in way dogmatic.

That emphasis on flavour goes for everything on the menu and the chalkboard - from the Sharing Boards, to the Small Plates/Starters and the Mains/Large Plates, the Specials and the Desserts.

As to what precisely to order, I let my choice be directed by Filmore & Union Harrogate's knowledgable deputy manager Paolo and the super attentive waitress Magda.

For starters I could have enjoyed Moroccan Roast Carrot Soup or Fresh Crab Hummus or Tahini Satay Turkey Skewers or Roast Mixed Beets but instead pick Baked Chorizo.

The mains see me overlook the Fillet Steak, Free Range Chicken Supreme, Roast Yorkshire Venison, Vegan Tangine and Fillmore Beef Burger in favour of Roast Hailbut Fillet.

Dessert ends up being Cardamom Roast Plums with Franigpan after dismissing Dairy Free Blueberry and Cashew Nut Cheesecake, Chocolate and Chesnut Torte, a Festive Cheese Board with local cheeses and a Gluten Free Christmas Pudding.

Every dish is delicious, trendy but tasty to a fault, dressings, sauces and seasonings judged to a tee. It tastes good and I feel good.

There's plenty of side orders to choose from but this is a place where concepts such as wellness and fitness, so there's sweet potatoes on the menu, not French Fries.

It’s been such a great night that, as I leave, I’m tempted to sit myself in the Filmore & Union’s downstairs café which turns into a welcoming and well-stocked cocktail bar in the evening.

The new Harrogate branch of Filmore & Union tries to offer a bit of everything from its position just ahead of trend.

With so many aims it could so easily go wrong.

That it doesn’t in the cool surroundings of this multi-faceted, multi-roled café-restaurant, is quite a feat.

Why, it’s even dog friendly.

www.filmoreandunion.com