York restaurant development team unveiled as Minster plans get green light

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Award-winning chef Bex Toppin and partner Will Pearce of Robinsons Cafe, York, have been brought on board to run the new York Minster Refectory Restaurant.

They are part of a prominent development team that also includes GEM Construction (York) Ltd., The Star Group of Restaurants, and Rachel McLane Ltd.

This follows last Friday’s City of York Council’s Planning Committee unanimous resolution to grant planning permission for a new refectory restaurant on the site of the former Minster school.

GEM Construction’s chairman Mike Green, who is joint director and partner in the new venture with The Star Group’s director Andrew Pern, said: “This is an ambitious, high quality but accessible restaurant launch in an historically sensitive refurbishment of The Minster School, York, that will benefit the people and the city of York with new jobs and a fabulous restaurant while embracing the vision of the Chapter of York, the governing body for York Minster.”

The Right Revd Dr Jonathan Frost, Dean of York, said: “We are delighted City of York Council granted planning permission and listed building consent last night.

“This excellent partnership fully embraces Chapter’s vision to create a warm, welcoming refectory facility in the heart of the city.

“Re-purposing the former Minster School buildings to create a wonderful new space is fundamental to the principles of sustainability set out in the York Minster Precinct Neighbourhood Plan.

“We are confident the new Refectory Restaurant will operate very much in the caring spiritual, historical tradition of York Minster as a place of sanctuary and alms for feeding and watering pilgrims and the needy.”

GEM Construction itself employs 35 full-time staff including project and professional staff, alongside Gem’s sister company, Lanstone Conservation, which specialises in the maintenance, restoration and conservation of ecclesiastical, historic and ancient buildings and monuments.

Gem Construction was founded in 1997 by Green, who said he is passionate about the project and the jobs in construction and hospitality the new restaurant will create.

He said: “Plans are still being finalised but we expect there will be a daytime takeaway element, and day time and evening dining; we also aim to have a mix of smaller function and private dining rooms, which are relatively rare in York,” added Mr Green.

Looking after the interior design side of the project is Rachel McLane Ltd, an interior designer from Pickering.

Bringing 20 years’ experience to the project across numerous hospitality projects, McLane said: “We want the Refectory’s design to be an honest, community space, unpretentious, public focused and accessible, making it look like it belongs and won’t take away from the essence of the building, by doing justice to its historical importance.

“The design concepts that we have come up with really respect and enhance the old school – the main floor Refectory restaurant space will be the space in which school pupils and staff ate their meals and hosted school concerts.”

Andrew Pern, at the Star Group of Restaurants is the other main investment partner and brings the expertise and resources of those restaurants including The Star at Harome and The Star Inn the City, York.

Green added: “Although Andrew and I have been working very closely together on this project as we have on our other Star restaurants, people can expect the Minster Refectory restaurant to be a distinctly different concept to the Star.”

The plans for the new Refectory Restaurant remain subject to final planning permission in a deal that is ‘subject to contract’, as York Minster, Gem Construction and The Star Group of Companies work together to finalise contract arrangements.