Restaurant: El Piano
Address: 15-17 Grape Lane
Average dessert price: £4
Can a place offering a purely vegan and gluten-free menu really deliver the goods? The answer, unfortunately, in the case of El Piano, is no. At best the food is hit-and-miss. As charming and endearing as the place is, a vibrant décor and pleasant service cannot hide the absence of real milk in the hot chocolate, or wheat in the bread.
Faced with a dessert menu containing apple crumble with rice milk and wheat-less crumble, and a cheesecake made of ‘scheeze’ (vegan cheese), one’s mind and appetite drifts towards the countless other coffee shops offering sumptuous pastries here.
The portioning at El Piano is difficult to master as well. Two tapas-size portions, (at £3.95 each) do not quite satisfy, while the full racion -size, (better value for money at £5.95) is in most cases only part of a meal. The soups of the day, similarly on the small side, are probably the best option, with fresh ingredients and a great taste. Unless you’re a celiac however I would recommend sneaking along a chunk of your own bread, the gluten-free offerings being dry and tasteless.
An original idea and a well-created vibe sadly have not been reflected in tasty food, and looking around at the other diners, it’s hard not to think that those looking happy with their meatless shepherd’s pies are perhaps just trying to look on the bright side.