The Vine leaf is York’s only Turkish Restaurant that isn’t pulled behind a landrover and parked near the Gallery at chucking out time. In a way this is a shame because the food is absolutely superb, although after all those fluorescent VKs you probably couldn’t taste much anyway. In fact, banish last minute, greasy kebabs from your minds completely. The Vine Leaf serves meals that are to be eaten at leisure, in friendly, informal surroundings over a period of not less than 2 hours. When I went for my housemate’s birthday, it was more an event than a meal. We were a fairly big party of 12, and opted for the set menu at £15 a head.
The starter was a selection of traditional Turkish dishes that just kept appearing, until the table was covered in a sea of multicoloured mezze. This is a wonderful way to eat, providing a veritable voyage of discovery as we picked our way through plates and plates of things stuffed with various other things. Stuffing seems to be a recurring theme in Turkish food; there were of course the synonymous stuffed vine leaves, as well as aubergines stuffed with mince, tomatoes stuffed with beans, and so on and so forth. Finally, the plates were cleared away and we got onto the actual meal.
This was predominantly meat, which had been slow cooked until it was fantastically tasty and tender. We had one vegetarian among us for whom they prepared a special salad (many of the starters were vegetarian anyway) which was apparently very nice, but I think that the main attraction of the Vine Leaf has to be the plates of succulent beef, lamb and chicken on which to gorge yourself silly in a carnivorous frenzy.
If it is a feast in the true medieval sense that you are looking for, I can’t recommend anywhere that will so happily live up to your debauched fantasies as the vine leaf. Complete with jugs of wine, belly dancers, (no, I’m actually serious) and possibly authentic Turkish music, the Vine Leaf is a place for celebration, inebriation and unfortunately, the decimation of your bank account. It is a little on the pricey side, although this may have had more to do with the unfortunate amount of quaffing that I seem to remember at one stage involved crème de menthe’s all round… now there’s decadence for you.