By the time you read this review, January dubbed the most miserable, gloomy month of the year, will be well on its way and those eliminating booze or whatever else chosen in those rash moments on New Year’s Eve, hopefully over the worst. The wine is still pouring in this house, but we have made a few changes diet-wise towards more nourishing, nurturing foods after months of a free for all.
With my vegetarian resolution for this month, how happy am I then that Cardamom & Dill joined York’s burgeoning food scene in November. Described by owner Kiki Salon as a journey around a Mediterranean table, her menus draw inspiration from across this culinary melting pot where plant-based foods are more often the shining stars, with meat taking much less of a role.
Former brand manager Kiki has been teasing me with her food at pop-ups and supper clubs for some time over on Instagram and based on the success of these she took a leap of faith by taking on a vacant unit at Spark on Piccadilly in York. I reviewed the controversial opening of Spark last summer and, as a reminder, this innovative and seemingly successful project is a space for start-ups, small independents and social enterprises and wisely is a chance for these businesses to try out an idea first given that many businesses including restaurants fail in their first year.
Cardamom & Dill is small, with only 14 covers, but despite being housed in a shipping container is well lit with large glass sliding doors and windows on three sides. The tables and chairs are white for more brightness. The space is neat, unfussy and dotted with fabulous cookbooks.
The menu at this remarkable restaurant is also small with five main dishes, sourdough bread and yummy cakes, all of which change weekly and follow different cities, areas or countries. This week it is Provence, and one of the five is a ratatouille Niçoise (£8), but in recent weeks there have been enticing offerings from Morocco with a vegetable tagine, Medjool dates, butternut squash with fresh mint and toasted almonds (£8). From Mallorca, a vegan sopas mallorquínas, a Mallorcan-style vegetable and bread stew with pimentón (£8), and from one of my much-loved favourite food cities, Istanbul, Nohut yemegi, slowly cooked chickpeas with pomegranate molasses, mint, oregano, bay leaves and cumin with lemon zest and chopped dill (£8).
I visited for a Sunday brunch, which when I make time is possibly the favourite meal of the week. Despite a filthy cold day, inside was warm, inviting and impossible to choose what to eat. We wanted it all but passed on the ubiquitous smashed avocado and went for the remaining four dishes to share. A freshly baked frittata hot from the oven was sitting on the counter so a large slice of that, please. The Italian omelette came packed with peppers, greens, herbs and a hefty handful of rocket, with the eggs just caught before they reach the rubbery phase, the spoiler of most frittati and tortilla. A delightful citrusy, garlicky home-made hummus on thick slices of sourdough toast came at the same time, and we happily switched between the two.
There then followed a bowl of delicious, lightly spiced, flavour dense Dahl; I was in heaven. Just the colour of this dish is enough to enliven the spirit, but eating and knowing that all that goodness is going to work is a great feeling. Dahl has too long been underrated in the UK, possibly because it has not come from Kiki’s kitchen.
Finally, we had to order Rob’s Turkish-style eggs with feta, plum tomatoes, red chillies and spring onions served with more sourdough toast, this time drizzled with Kalamata olive oil (£8.50). The Rob here is Kiki’s husband, renowned artist Rob Burton. He may be busy with his work and exhibitions which take the couple travelling to the exotic locations influencing Kiki’s food, but he is not averse to rolling up his sleeves and pitching in, and his Turkish eggs are now legendary.
You can come here only for lunch or Sunday brunch. However, there are monthly supper clubs, a guest chef programme in the making and you can even have a private dinner for 12 all to yourself and with Kiki cooking. The restaurant is young, but the premise Kiki follows is ancient – cook with love, nurture and nourish your body with healthy, fresh, seasonal ingredients, spice it up, then gather your family and friends around and eat together. And may I add, not just in January, you deserve to eat this well all year-round. I will be back (and often).
Cardamom & Dill, Unit 1, Spark York, 17-21 Piccadilly, York YO1 9PB; tel: 07990 515758. Opening times: Wednesday to Saturday, lunch from 12 to 4pm, (last orders 3pm); Sunday brunch, 11am to 2pm (last orders 1pm). Keep track of food and events over on Instagram @cardamom_and_dill.