This week’s foodie find is not simply an item, but a favourite little deli and café of mine. The Hairy Fig is a “purveyor of fine fodder” in York. When I first walked past the windows of the little shop, it took me a moment to realise I was looking into a food shop. It is formed of two sections in adjacent shops. One is a unique delicatessen selling an array of hard-to-find fresh fruit and veg and home-cooked delicacies common in the north: pies, pasties and sausage rolls.The other half is more difficult to identify. At first I thought I’d found myself in a tiny emporium of wonder. In fact, it is a sweet and treat shop cross café. The shop sells tea, coffee and chocolate as well as specialist liquors. It feels as though each time I enter, there is something new on the shelves to greet me.
The tiny café at the back has only four tables. On the way in you pass a coffee table with the day’s selection of cakes. Behind you on the wall, a scattering of chalk boards offers the limited but delicious sounding menu. Visiting with a friend, I ordered a pear, walnut and gorgonzola toasted sandwich, served with salad and sweet tangy chutney.
But perhaps the pride of this little place is the liquorice. Shipped over from Europe and presented in glass jars just like an old-fashioned sweet shop, liquorice is present in shapes and flavours I never even knew existed.
Today, I made it my mission to try something new so I selected 3 unfamiliar types…
Dutch School Chalk liquorice looks exactly like a piece of white chalk. In fact, the outside it a crisp outer sugar coating. Biting into it, the sweet was softer and chewier than I expected, the inside something like dense marshmallow with a lightly salty, aniseed taste. Surprisingly, it left a fresh feeling in the mouth, almost breath-mint like.
Belgian Liquorice and Ginger was much chewier, like a gummy sweet. It also had a much stronger flavour. Though the liquorice was still there, it has a definite heat from the ginger, reminding me of ginger wine.
By far my favourite was the Citrus liquorice. It had a thick, melting outer layer which reminded me of condensed milk. Inside was a large, dense piece of liquorice. Since the outer is something like a rich, citrus/white chocolate truffle, it sits beautifully with the salty, tangy liquorice, which brings out and compliments the rich sweetness.
Not only will you find unique treats here, but the owners are wonderfully friendly and eager to share their experiences with the curiosities on offer. If you ever find yourself wondering the streets of York, it’s certainly worth a visit.