I watched the building of Capri@ The Vine in Wakefield with interest. Over a number of months the old Vine Tree pub on Leeds Road was remodelled and massively extended and a shiny new Italian restaurant erected in its wake.
Keen to try it as soon as possible I nevertheless waited a few weeks to allow any teething troubles to be ironed out.
First hurdle was to secure a booking. The sophisticated online booking service didn’t deliver; the expected acknowledgment never materialising.
I resorted to the telephone. No one answered it. I tried again the following day and eventually got through. When I cited my failed attempt at online booking the girl who answered apologised and said she was working her way through dozens of emails. Surely a system like this should be automated and not rely on staff to manage?
We were allocated a table at 8pm the following Saturday night, which surprised me - I’d been led to expect a much longer wait from friends who’d already visited and had to wait weeks for a prime-time slot.
Capri@The Vine is the sister restaurant to Capri in nearby Horbury which has been open since 1996 and has an enthusiastic following so I expected great things.
Most impressive is the large carpark with its one-way system and CCTV cameras relayed into the foyer and visible at all times by staff seated there. A doorman was on hand to welcome us. A nice touch.
The face and the internal decor is certainly impressive and there has clearly been a lot of money spent on every aspect of the design and layout. Lots of marble and chrome and plenty of bling makes for a pretty sophisticated look.
We arrived a little early and our table wasn’t ready so were given an electronic bleeper which we were told would vibrate when they were ready for us. We wandered off into the wine bar which takes up the ground floor of the building.
Being Saturday night it was very busy with groups of smartly dressed women on a night out mingling with diners like us waiting for a table. There is a very pleasant terrace area but as it was raining heavily there was no opportunity to sit out there.
Service at the bar was slow and prices expensive - San Miguel at £4.50 a pint. As 8pm came and went we returned to the ‘check-in desk’ to enquire about our table just as our gadget sprang into life.
We were shown upstairs and then handed over to another member of staff who allocated our table. The restaurant was busy with tables uncomfortably close together and the noise terrific, making it difficult to hold a conversation without raising our voices. By the end of the night my ears were literally ringing and I was glad to get out into the rain.
Our order for drinks was taken promptly and duly delivered and the menu handed over. Along with the expected pizza and pasta dishes there is a nice selection of speciality dishes with chicken, duck, veal and fish in abundance.
We decided to pay for a bread basket with olives in truffle oil at £3.95.
For starters my companion opted for seared king scallops which came served with a tasty sauce of white wine, smoked pancetta, garlic and chilli and were served on a bed of spinach. They were juicy and plump but at £9.95 for three, a trifle expensive.
I chose smooth chicken liver pate blended with brandy (£6.75), which the menu stated was homemade.
It came in a little ceramic pot topped with cranberries, a side salad and four triangles of toast and was quite delicious.
The cranberries complementing and cutting through the richness of the pate quite beautifully
Ideally the toast should have been warm - it had clearly been hanging around the kitchen for some time.
For mains I decided to try out a typical Italian pasta dish of penne in a sauce of chunks of pepperoni sausage, onions, tomato and spices.
The pasta was al dente and the sauce just the right side of spicy without being too hot - portion size was good and the plate was garnished with shredded basil leaves and at £9.45 it represented good value for money.
My companion, as ever, went for steak - but with a twist. Filetto di manzo Capri At The Vine is pan fried rather than grilled and comes topped with dolce latte cheese and a slice of Parma ham with a peppercorn, brandy and cream sauce.
As with all specials it was offered with the option of either salad, vegetables or French fries. At £24.95 I’d expect both vegetables and French fries.
No complaints however about the steak which was cooked as requested, the peppercorn sauce rich and creamy.
For dessert I decided to try tiramisu and my companion went for the chocolate fudge cake (£5.50).
The tiramisu was excellent - there’s clearly a talent at work in the kitchen.
The chocolate fudge cake, however, was okay but nothing special.
The cost of the meal, including one round of drinks, was £75.05. Not a fortune but enough to expect a more well-rounded dining experience.
Due to its accessibility and proximity to junction 41 of the M1 motorway, Capri@ The Vine is in a prime position to attract a lot of passing trade. This is somewhere it could lay down roots and really thrive.
But if it is to be as successful as its Horbury stablemate it needs to iron out the tiny glitches in its booking process and make sure there is someone on hand to answer the phone at all times during opening hours. Otherwise, it’s well worth a look.
Address: The Vine Tree, 82 Leeds Road, Wakefield, WF1 2QF
Tel: 01924 370999
Opening times: Mon-Sat noon-10pm; Sunday noon-9pm