As it happens, it's a vegetarian restaurant, but unless you're a meat addict, you might never notice. This is no health food venue. It's all the richness and decadence of good food which just happens to be made without considering meat or fish. When Vanilla Black moved down from York to larger premises in London, York residents were sorry to see it go. Londoners, fortunately, have been happy to receive it, with a good two-thirds of the modest number of tables full on a Tuesday night.
It's a pleasant, soothing space, with some sage-green, some white walls, warm wood floors, white linens, and stairs. By mid-evening, the music was hushed, no interruption to good conversation. Indeed, our group of five was delighted with how easy it was to talk amongst ourselves, without combating other conversations or tunes. Within minutes of being seated, we had bread, a choice of butters, water, and menus. We were off to a fine start.
An amuse-bouche of chilled, spiced juiced tomato with poached yellow pepper arrived, a mini aperitif of the Bloody Mary school. After that, our dinner began in earnest. I started with the sweetcorn crême brûlée, a delicate cup of sweetness which was cut by a finely-chopped tomato and pepper salsa and, the best part of all, a pair of vivid smoked paprika biscuits. haggisthesecond reports that the Flossway Fleece Cheese Toastie was the best cheese toastie (and certainly the best-plated) that she'd ever eaten.
For a main, I had the poached duck egg, which rested on a hickory smoke potato croquette, and came with pineapple pickle and, my reason for ordering it, the pyramidal Ducketts Caerphilly pudding. I liked the croquette and loved the pineapple pickle, but the pudding was on the dry side, the least exciting element of the plate. haggisthesecond and marzapane recommend the mushroom duxelle torte.
naxos and I had been ordering very similarly throughout the meal, and so we were the only two at the table to have as our own dessert the soft prunes with armagnac custard, sided with fabulous, gently spicy bay leaf-flavored biscuits. C.'s fruit crumble was pleasant, but nonchalant compared to the prune-and-armagnac dish. marzapane's whipped Brie with golden beetroot and pink peppercorn syrup was fine, but would have worked better had she been thinking of it as a cheese course, not dessert, as it was wholly savory.
Service was helpful and well-informed throughout.
We wandered out into the cool evening, happy and full of conversation and good food. I want more smoked paprika biscuits. Perhaps I'll try baking them. After all, the next time I go back - and I'm sure I will - the menu will likely have wandered on to more good food which just happens to have no meat or fish in it.