El Piano, 15-17 Grape Lane

If you can find El Piano in the maze of streets surrounding the Minster, it’s well worth a look. This kitsch café/bar/tapas restaurant has a comfy ethnic vibe, with friendly staff and a diverse clientele. As a (lax) vegetarian, it was lovely to have the whole menu at my disposal, as opposed to the usual token pasta dishes found in so many restaurants. Don’t be put off, however, by the wholly veg and vegan menu (they also specialise in catering for gluten-free and other special diets), it’s really more than just rabbit food. My wholeheartedly carnivorous companion seemed quite happy to tuck into a selection of Indian-based tapas, ranging from onion bhajis to chickpea curry and spicy mushrooms.

You can choose your own dishes and the size to suit your appetite – from just a couple of pounds for the small “chica” size up to the larger “racion”, so you can have anything from lunch to a light snack with drinks, to a full blown dinner. The dishes have many different influences: Indian, Mexican and Oriental, as well as portions of crusty bread and chips for dipping! This makes for a thoroughly hands-on meal; very informal and relaxed. Yet another way to eat El Piano-style is to order a takeaway wrap from the serving hatch – this is faster, cheaper and available from 10am until closing.

Whilst we nibbled away at the delicious potato cakes, I revelled in the eclectic décor. We were seated in what can only be described as a fairy-themed room, whilst downstairs a relaxed café atmosphere matched the latin music. This would be the perfect place for a group meal, as the private rooms upstairs can be booked for functions and parties, and the larger platters are great for sharing.

Some might find this wholesome and friendly approach a bit overwhelming, but subscribe to it as much or as little as you like, and rest assured that at least you’re not having to deal with snotty waiters and the same old menus. An interesting alternative to pizza and more pizza

Reviewed by Amy Milka

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