York is a city that is positively stuffed with history (alongside a surfeit of fudge shops) and the House of the Trembling Madness - tucked away on Stonegate, as you head towards the Minster - is no exception. The rear of the building dates back to 1180 AD, the first Norman house built in York, while the medieval hall upstairs is still traversed with original ships beams that would have set sail on the seas all those centuries ago.
All which makes for a wonderfully quirky interior, with the added bonus of the uneven floors and low door frames that make you feel a little tipsy before you've imbibed a drop - the place is named after the Delirium Tremens after all. Hit your head on the aforementioned beams and you could also wake up feeling like you've got a hangover.
The pub part of the operation is on the first floor - the aforementioned medieval hall and a marvellous room with a vaulted ceiling, ornate candelabra and a wall full of stuffed animal heads. The whole effect bought to mind the kind of place Henry VIII might hang out for a casual tankards of mead, when he wasn’t hosting lavish jousting tournaments or executing his wives. The sheepskin rugs on the chairs and Christmas soundtrack also contributed to the warming feeling of Hygge. Although, retrospectively, that could have also been the brandy in the mulled wine.
In our customary eagerness, we were the first through the doors for our late breakfast/early lunch. And, as even I had to concede, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas, I started with a pint of the Fairytale of Brew York from the selection of cask beers on the bar. Beers from the shop may be drunk upstairs for an additional £1.25 corkage fee per bottle.
The Ewing went with the mulled wine, and while it wasn't quite up to the standard of my Aunt's at the panto the day before (she's an expert muller), it was still commendable - as well as being pretty lethal at half eleven in the morning. If you fancy something even stronger check out their beer shots which range from Brewdog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin at 32% right up to The Mystery of Beer, brewed by Dutch brewers 'T Koelschip, and weighing in at a hefty 70%.
Their menu states 'we believe that you should be able to eat food whenever you are hungry or need it, so we have a policy of whenever the pub is open then the food is always available to you'. A nice touch, although beware if you fancy an early pie, as we did, as you may have to wait for your gravy to warm up.
The food, expertly prepared in the tiny galley kitchen that also doubles as the bar, mostly focuses on platters of cold meats, pate and cheese, with a couple of different incarnations of the beef burger (although no chips) and a few hot dishes that can be served with mash (pies, sausages and a daily-changing stew).
The festive salmon platter was a gargantuan array of grub for a mere £6.50. More importantly, it was excellent; hot toast, cold butter, punchy pate with ribbons of smoked fish and capers studded throughout, a dab of dill mustard and a pickled chilli chaser. The homemade House of Madness slaw rounded things off - providing crisp respite from the full on flavours.
The Ewing picked the booze-inspired cheese platter, with wedges infused with Yorkshire whisky, Yorkshire beer hops and Drunken Burt's cider, alongside a Wellington blue and Green Thunder garlic and herb, all accompanied by bread from the Via Vecchia bakery, on the nearby Shambles.
Generous and delicious, although, if I had a criticism, the different flavours soon became pretty indistinguishable. Still, large amounts of cheese and crusty bread with a bunch of redcurrants thrown in for good measure. You can't really go too wrong with that.
I also had to have the steak pie and pea 'tapas', served with a jug of beer and onion gravy A kind of reverse Peter Mandelson with his mushy pea guacamole. If you could find this kinda stuff on the bars of pubs the way you find ham and omelettes in Spain I'd be a happy (and even fatter) girl.
Just in case we weren't already on course for for a seasonal dose of gout, we decided we couldn't miss the Swaledale sausage ring, infused with 7% Yorkshire imperial stout and served on a floury bap, from the breakfast/early lunchtime menu. A very wise choice, especially with lashings of butter and a blob of dill mustard.
Down in the basement there is even more booze, with a variable assortment of spirits including gin, whisky, bourbon and a shelf full of the kind of lurid drinks you bring back from two weeks abroad and leave to gather dust on the sideboard for the next decade. There is also a whole case dedicated to the green fairy, absinthe, whose mythical properties were thought to cause many imbibers to hallucinate - although this was more likely caused by withdrawal symptoms from acute alcohol dependency than from the liquor itself.
Oscar Wilde said of the green stuff; 'after the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world'. Unless you're tucked up upstairs, pint in hand and a plate of bread and meat in front of you. Then things look pretty good.