El Piano

Address: 15-17 Grape Lane
Prices: £12.95 for 3 tapas
Rating: ****

Being a vegetarian in a meat-eating world is tough, but thankfully there are quaint little restaurants that cater to everyone’s needs – carnivores included. El Piano, just in the centre of York is one such place.

Inside, rustic fiesta-style decorations adorn the quaint restaurant, emphasising the southern Mediterranean theme of the place. It boasts plenty of seating; downstairs, upstairs and even outside for those beautiful summer days (abundant in our dear England). Nevertheless, no matter where you sit you feel like you could be anywhere but York. The music sets the scene, combing Latin music with jazzy blues giving it a relaxed but cheery atmosphere. At night it does get busy and the vibe gets even more lively.

The food is varied, though not necessarily taste-bud heaven. It combines Greek, Turkish, Mexican, and Indian recipes; well seasoned, and not too spicy. There are different menus according to the season – always a good thing as every visit is different. The best dish on the menu is the vegetable fritters, served with an array of mouth-watering sauces.

All meals are served tapas-style with offers on for those of limited funds. It’s not the cheapest place to eat, but it is well worth the money. Tapas is the way to go for anybody who may be a bit wary about trying new foods, especially vegan food, as it gives a varied selection.

There are no table settings as such. The plates are piled on the table with the cutlery on top contained within a mug – very rustic, but it enhances the chilled-out feel of the place.

There is a good drinks menu, but if you’re looking for a wide choice of spirits and wines, El Piano isn’t the place to go. They do serve alcohol, but it feels more appropriate to select a drink from the multitude of soft drinks, coffees, teas and non-dairy milkshakes. Coming from someone who is picky about her coffee, El Piano’s is pretty darn good, especially the Cowboy one – strong and bold. And if you order tea, it arrives in a beautiful beaten-silver teapot reminiscent of a Moroccan lantern.

For those with room after main courses, there is an assortment of deserts. If you see vegan and vegetarian desserts as boring and unappealing, think again! Highlights are the rich chocolate brownies, a delectable sticky toffee pudding, spicy carrot cake, and a rather interesting “cheese-cake” for those searching for something unusual.

Recipe books are available to buy, so you can give it a go yourself at home. If not, you can grab a take-away at any time of day – better than a kebab from some suspicious place.

All in all, if you want to try new, tasty cuisine in an unpretentious and exciting atmosphere, El Piano is a place to try. And when you go, order the dhal: it’s incredible.