Competition from other Italian eateries springing up around the town may have been a contributory factor in La Sila finally closing its doors about 18 months ago, but the proprietors of the Vine, which opened last November, are already finding fans. Run by two South American brothers – both chefs – and their wives, they are offering a Mediterranean menu and describe the restaurant as family run and family friendly which perfectly captures its appeal.
We first visited the restaurant –above a parade of shops in the town’s main car park – in a large extended family group on a freezing cold early January evening and were greeted with a very warm welcome, friendly, unfussy service and excellent, good value food. Every dish is freshly cooked on the premises using locally sourced ingredients and the menu offers a good range but sensibly does not overstretch itself. Pizzas, pastas and risottos are available as well as other traditional Italian dishes and steak with various sauces and a daily specials board with a Mediterranean twist.
The decor in the Vine is bright and cheery with an authentic Italian restaurant feel. Tables are covered in crisp white linen, the lighting is ambient with fairylights on the beams and tea lights on each table to add to the intimate feel. The kitchen area, as in most traditional Italian pizza restaurants, is open with the chefs’ creative flair clearly visible, breaking down barriers so that the whole business of the preparation, consumption and enjoyment of food is a shared experience conducted in a relaxed manner that adds the inclusive family atmosphere.
Arriving at 8pm on a Friday for our second visit, we found the restaurant pleasantly busy with only one or two spare tables; and the crowds were there through word of mouth only – the friendly waitress who served us said that they had just that week placed their first advertisement in a local newspaper.
One proprietor, recognising us from our previous visit, came to ask how we were enjoying our meal and to say that if there was anything about the restaurant or the food that we thought could be improved to let him know. That kind of personal touch can make all the difference
Starters are very reasonably priced ranging from berlotti bean soup with chorizo, served with focaccia at £4.95 to scallops at £6.50 with others at £5.95, plus a choice of starters on the specials board. We chose a buffalo mozzarella salad with vine tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes and avocado and one of the specials – crabmeat with toasted ciabatta. The crabmeat was blended mouth-wateringly with mayonnaise, capers, cucumber, avocado, lemon juice, tarragon and, according to our waiter, other “secret ingredients”. The mozzarella salad was delicious – the zesty freshness of the cheese, with a perfect firm consistency, combined beautifully with the avocado and two different types of tomato.
For the main course we tried the wild mushroom risotto – one of several vegetarian options – which was a lovely creamy creation with robust earthy flavours complemented by a tomato and onion side salad. The calvados pork fillet was melt-in-your-mouth good with the tender pan fried meat in calvados sauce complemented by flavourful gratin potatoes and the sticky sweetness of caramelised apple. Main courses range from an incredibly good value £6.50 to £7.25 for pizzas and £7.50 for pastas, while meat and fish dishes start at £10.95 for a chicken fillet stuffed with toleggio cheese, rosemary, peppers and oyster mushrooms, to £12.95 for cod wrapped in pancetta and £14.95 for a fillet steak. Most main courses come with vegetables but a side dish or salad can be added for £2, including fine green beans with mint and garlic, creamed spinach, rosemary potatoes or French fries.
Little room was left for desserts but we somehow managed to force ourselves. From the homemade puddings and huge variety of ice creams, we chose chocolate tiramisu and vanilla panna cotta served with fruit compote and fresh raspberries. It was, however, difficult to decide as also on offer were lemon tart, chocolate fondant served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate cheesecake and cappuccino mousse served with caramel and vanilla ice cream – all £3.95. The panna cotta was one of the best I’ve ever tasted (and I’ve tried many as it’s a favourite). It had just the right firm yet creamy consistency with the compote and raspberries providing a nice sharp counterbalance to the custardy sweetness. The tiramisu was light yet satisfying in a comfortingly cakey kind of way – exactly as it should be. The desserts perfectly ended an excellent meal.
Our hugely enjoyable three-course feast for two with two glasses of the palatable house red plus coffee came to a reasonable £54.30, excluding service. Highly recommended – but make sure you get there soon as the word is definitely out.
The Vine Restaurant, 7 Grove Promenade, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8AF. Open Monday to Saturday, 12pm until late and Sunday 12-4pm. 01943 609312, www.vineilkley.co.uk