Will Yorke’s Vineyard Cafe is well known for its brunch options, but the owner says he and his wife actually opened the restaurant in 2006 as a source for ultra thin crust pizza slices.
"At the time, the only thing on the menu was pizza,” Yorke tells the Beijinger, adding: "My wife, Xu Duan, and I had just finished restructuring a pizza restaurant which was facing imminent destruction and we moved on from there to create the Vineyard.”
Xu, who hails from Beijing, had yet to try an English breakfast. So her UK born husband decided to that to the menu for her and her friends. "We didn’t advertise it at all, but for some reason loads of people turned up. I don’t know how they knew, but of course we weren’t ready for the numbers that turned up, and it was total chaos!”
These days Yorke and his staff are more than prepared for those breakfast craving throngs. And yet, he has also taken special care to ensure his pizzas have continued to evolve as well.
“Since I began selling pizza, the options for it were not as developed (in Beijing) as they are now,” he says, adding that his numerous ‘za competitors haven’t so much saturated the scene as upped its ante. He adds: “Pizza … differs from place to place, but there is always room in the market for more pizza … For some reason every place that makes pizza makes them differently. They couldn’t even make them the same if they tried. Everyone is making good pizzas, but each pizza represents a different understanding.”
He goes on to describe the source of those numerous variations: "I guess there is a different philosophy in the balance of sauce, cheese and toppings. Our pizza is based on our understanding of this philosophy. You don’t want too much or to little of either. You don’t want the sauce to overtake the flavour but you need to know it’s there. The sauce should be thick, but not too thick. And I am not a big fan of sauces that taste like tomato paste. I am not a fan of dried oregano overkill.”
But many customers (including yours truly), might argue that the Vineyard’s most distinctive attribute is its slender crust, perhaps one of the thinnest in Beijing, at least on its Meaty-orite pie. That pizza is coated with – brace yourself – roast chicken, bacon, pepperoni, ham, bolognese, roasted mixed peppers, mozzarella, a generous heaping of olives and onions, and more. The mountainous layers of toppings, combined with such a spindly thin crust, make for one of the most sumptuous pizza juxtapositions in town (although it may be overkill for those who prefer the restraint of more traditional pies, or some of our city’s healthier options).
Yorke adds that the Meaty-orite is actually only his second best seller. The top slot actually belongs to the Mediterranean.
"I think the interaction of its feta and fresh pesto just makes it a nice combination,” he says of the Mediterranean, adding that it works as a fine alternative to the Meaty-orite. He goes on to say that Mediterranean is subtler and "tastes fresh and more-ish."
Tue-Sun 11.30am-11.30pm. 31 Wudaoying Hutong (just north of the Confucius temple) Dongcheng District (6402 7961)
This post first appeared on thebeijinger.com on November 13, 2014
Photos: Kyle Mullin