There is a place in the north of England with crooked lanes paved with old stones. This town knows a brutal and harsh history. Pubs are named after torture devices and methods of execution while a seemingly-benign grass patch hides the remains of a cholera burial ground. It is a location that both delights and astounds with its past of inglorious tales.
It is also a place where many fabulous occurrences take place. Within the space of a few hours in the city this past weekend I ate at a completely vegan Spanish restaurant, had my photo taken with superstar of screen and fashion Chloë Sevigny and witnessed Morrissey perform a stellar concert to a venue packed with adoring fans.
Welcome to York.
I have been to York twice prior to this latest visit and it still manages to astound me. Even though modern stores and conveniences are everywhere, the city exists in some strange kind of timelessness. A huge wall surrounds the old city and my friend Simon (York born and bred) delighted in regaling me with stories of residents of yesteryear displaying the severed heads of criminals on spikes as deterrents to would-be thieves.
The residents no longer perform this grisly display and now it is even possible to dine out within these very walls in completely cruelty-free fashion.
The rustic comfort of El Piano is a true blessing for vegan residents and visitors alike. They serve up tasty and healthy food that is completely free of non-human animal products as well as being nut and gluten-free. Pretty impressive, huh? The entire wine list is vegan however the restaurant does still serve dairy milk, a practice they intend to completely cease by 2012. My meal consisted of tapas and sangria served in traditional earthenware as delightful as the delicious food and drink.
My tapas featured a centre pile of corn chips surrounded by small savoury servings. These included lentil salad, spicy mushrooms, re-fried beans, humus, guacamole and caramelised onion. A few rice crackers were scattered across the top to finish the cute dish off. It wasn’t enough to fill me up completely but was perfectly priced at £7.50 as a snack. It is an ideal dish to share between two people while you wait for a more substantial main to arrive.
On the sweet side of consumption I went after a huge jug of sangria and a slice of warm sticky date pudding. The sangria was served in a heavy jug accompanied by a glass rimmed with brown sugar and a slice of lemon.
The sticky date pudding was served in a hot dish swimming in a fabulous caramel sauce. I don’t ever remember being a huge fan of this type of dessert, but El Piano has changed my mind.
El Piano also has a second location in Granada with a third opening shortly in Malaga. They sell their own range of cookbooks and an instore mini shop offers cookware, decorations and food supplies. It is a one of a kind eating experience.
York presented me with further adventures outside the mainstream with an opportunity to say hello to an acting hero of mine moments before watching one of my all time heroes light up the stage in incredible style.
Chloë Sevigny is an actor of formidable talent who I have admired for many years. Her fearlessness and intelligence make her undeniable. Her portrayal as a conniving yet vulnerable sister wife in Big Love was a masterclass in character development and believability. Imagine my complete shock when I walked by Chloë as I was sinking a few vegan beers in the lobby of the York Barbican. I was beside myself. I unashamedly approached the actor for a photograph, which she graciously agreed to. Maybe she said yes because we were both waiting to watch Morrissey. Maybe it was because she is a super cool human with no pretense. I like to think it is a bit of both.
I have never posted a photo of myself on this blog, but I do feel this is an occasion for breaking rules. Revel in the glory of one very happy FGV being in the presence of one of the best actors of our time.
A Morrissey concert will never be complete again without a Chloë Sevigny sighting, just as I suspect it won’t without a Peta stall. The animal rights organisation were on hand to promote compassionate living to the throngs of people filing into the venue.
Peta has certainly become the mainstream face of fighting for improved outcomes for non-human animals. I sometimes feel compromised (and excluded) by their use of ‘beautiful’ people to get their message across but they are extremely good at getting the word onto the street.
I suppose when animals are no longer killed for food and sport we can go after Peta for sexism, right?
Vegan food, Chloë Sevigny sightings and ethical Peta conundrums were all leading up to one event… Morrissey.
Morrissey hit the Barbican stage and performed a stunning array of songs from across his entire back catalogue. His voice was close to the best I have heard and the crowd ate up every morsel. A showstopping performance of the classic track Meat is Murder brought the crowd to a standstill. Even smart-mouthed carnivores were left speechless as horrific images of animals being tortured in the name of food production were projected upon the backdrop as the band hammered out the song in blazing style.
Well done, York. Our few hours together were impressive and you certainly have got a lot to live up to when I make my way back to you in the future when all’s well.