Restaurant: Thirteen Thirty One
Address: 13 Grape Lane
Prices: £10-£25 for a main
Review: Jacob Rosenthal
With York reeling from the recent loss of its beloved Tuesday night at Tru, many will find redemption by eagerly telling you, “we still have hundreds of bars and restaurants – more than one for each day of the year, you know”. However, more often than not, these two styles of gastronomic outlets are not entirely separate entities.
As with most of the bar-cum-eateries in York, the fact that the same darkly lit building you stumble from in the small hours of the morning also provided modern and optimistically British food came as something of a surprise to me.
On entering the restaurant in the day, these confusions were not immediately resolved; it was relatively empty and all the boards were displaying only drinks offers.
I was left to make initial assumptions based on the manner in which the table was presented. I think I can say with some confidence that when most people see mildly chipped wooden tables, an assortment of Heinz sauces and stainless steel numbers on their table one thought comes to mind: reasonably priced, honest pub food.
Imagine my surprise then when opening the menu, to be greeted with everything from pork loin and blueberry mash at £23 to black lip mussels and 21-day-aged steak at similarly eye watering covers. In fairness, this was coupled with cheaper offers on sandwiches and snacks but as I was there to review the restaurant in full, I decided to call their bluff.
I opted for Thai fish cake with sweet chilli olive oil at £4.95, followed by lamb shank on a bed of rosemary and red onion mash at £11.95. My fellow diner, despite a slight grimace from myself in anticipation of the bill, chose the 15oz locally sourced sirloin steak at £15.95. He assured me it was the best test of a good restaurant. I fear he may have just sensed the opportunity for free steak!
We chatted through the rather extended wait for the starter, yet its arrival turned out to be an unexpected surprise. The fish cake was crisp, with a fluffy texture and pleasant mild spicing. Despite being flanked by a Blue Dragon or similar shop-bought sweet chilli sauce, it was thoroughly enjoyable.
The mains, however, were a slightly different affair. The waitress sweetly wished me luck as she placed what appeared to be half a lamb in front of me. Despite a rushed presentation, the lamb was well cooked and the gravy full of the smoky taste of the rosemary, but the quantity of both decimated the delicate red onion mash and carrots.
My friend’s steak was also well cooked but served on a plate piled so high with unnecessary garnish that it did not allow it to be the main event – which a 15oz cut of meat should be.
Slightly dazed from the quantity of food which I had just consumed, I began to realise the mistake we had made. All around us, other tables were eagerly ordering from the sandwich menu ensuring the barman was earning his wage.
The long wait for our food, not being experienced by other diners, was I suspected caused by shocking the normally short-order chef by ordering the high end restaurant food which made up half the menu. Although clearly able to serve good food at a certain level, the ‘quantity over quality’ philosophy becomes slightly harder to overlook when faced with a £50 bill.
If you’re looking for a quick snack and two-for-one cocktails then I’m certain that Thirteen Thirty One would accommodate.
If, however, you are looking for a more refined dining experience which reflects the price you pay for such food, you should look elsewhere.
Certainly, tread very carefully when entering an establishment that peddles food by day and drunkenness by night.
As long as they promise to keep the blueberries in the cocktails and out of the mash, in future I may consider another visit.