I FIRST came across Cardamom and Dill when visiting the New School House Gallery in York. My father was visiting, so I took him to see the wonderful ‘secret garden’ tucked away beneath the city wall next to the gallery. Then we strolled inside for a look around the gallery itself and, hopefully, for a cup of tea and a cake.

Instead, we were confronted by a feast of Mediterranean dishes laid out temptingly on a counter along one wall; delicate filo pastries; Turkish white bean salads; roast sweet potato hummus; a slow-cooked chickpea and plum tomato stew; Istanbul bulgar and lentil salad; fresh flatbreads; sourdough bread with fresh olive oil; and a selection of Mediterranean cakes glistening with almonds and Greek yoghurt.

We were bowled over, our eyes bigger than our bellies - especially when owner and chef Kate Burton told us about how she’d picked up all the recipes on her travels around the Mediterranean, and how her aim was to ‘bring a taste of the Mediterranean’ to plates in York.

Instead of settling for a cup of tea and a scone, we each decided to have one of Kate’s ‘tasting plates’ - described as ‘a little bit of everything’.

The food was wonderful, an epic adventure of tastes and textures - cool, minty yoghurt; hummus sweetened with molasses; the delicate, light crispness of filo pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese; the glorious herby flavour of that white bean salad. To me, it was a revelation. Vegetarian food really could be this good.

That was last summer. Since then, Kate has moved her restaurant into the city centre instead: into one of the shipping containers at Spark:York in Piccadilly, in fact. It was never going to be long before I gave it a try.

Cardamom & Dill is open most weekdays at lunchtime and in the early afternoon, and does regular supper clubs. But I noticed it was also open for Sunday brunch. So my wife Lili and I turned up at just before noon one recent Sunday.

The little restaurant was still empty when we arrived: but warm and welcoming. It is amazing how inviting a shipping container can be made to appear.

It’s a railway carriage-shaped space, long and narrow. Small, white tables are spaced along the length, and the container’s end is one huge window looking over Piccadilly. The upper walls have been tiled: the lower half covered in white-painted timber.

The end two tables nearest the big window had been reserved, which was a shame. We plonked ourselves at a table in the middle and studied the menu. Sunday brunch, it turned out, is comparatively simple. The choices range from ‘Rob’s legendary Turkish-style eggs’ (eggs cooked with feta cheese, plum tomatoes, red chillies and spring onions and served on wholemeal sourdough toast drizzled with olive oil, £8.50) to Nohut Yemegi, a ‘beautiful slow-cooked melange of plump chickpeas with plum tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, garlic, mint and wild oregano’ .

Lili chose the Turkish-style eggs, while I went for the Rummaniyeh (£8), a traditional Palestinian stew of lentils, aubergine and pomegranate, served with fresh sourdough bread and olive oil.

We were both hungry, and pondered a side-order of extra sourdough toast with home-made jam to follow, but were assured there would be delicious Mediterranean cakes if we still had room.

My expectations were high: but brunch turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Lili’s eggs were tasty enough - a fiery red in colour, and with a peppery kick. But they lacked substance (perhaps because she had asked not to have the feta cheese).

My Rummaniyeh was very pleasant. It had a nice, thick texture, and a spicy kick set off by a hint of sweetness (from the pomegranates?). But it was a bit one-note. I craved some variety, although the sourdough bread from Bluebird Bakery in Little Shambles was delicious.

By the time our food arrived, the little restaurant had filled up. A trio of glamorous 30-something women (one with her teenaged daughter) had taken the reserved window seats; and two young couples (the men sporting natty suits and designer stubble) were seated at tables further along. It was clear this is now a trendy place to eat.

It was also slightly annoying from our purely selfish point of view because, having finished our main meals and still feeling peckish, we asked for some of that Mediterranean cake, to be told the last piece had just been sold.

Still, I’ll probably be back - though not for Sunday brunch next time. I still hanker after that glorious tasting plate that I first enjoyed at the School House Gallery last year...


Cardamom and Dill, Spark:York, Piccadilly
Website cardamomanddill.com

Food: Mediterranean 3/5
Service: Friendly 4/5
Ambience: Inviting 3.5/5
Value: Reasonable 3.5/5
All reviews are independent and paid for by The Press