For a city of its size, Leeds has pretty pathetic provision for vegetarians who like to eat out. There are two vegetarian cafés in the city centre. I was served a mouldy pie in one of them and the other doesn’t have wi-fi. It’s like Leeds hasn’t caught on to the fact that vegetarians expect decent food and do live in the 21st century.
Given the shortage of top-notch vegetarian action in the city, our expectations weren’t particularly high when Inkwell Arts invited us to review their new café. We’ll be honest; we didn’t hold out much hope for great things. We are thrilled to report that we were completely wrong to be pessimistic! Inkwell Arts vegetarian café sets a standard that other caterers in the city would be wise to follow.
From the outside, the building is unprepossessing – Inkwell is based in an old pub on Potternewton Lane between Chapeltown and Chapel Allerton. The interior, though, is a revelation. Lots of the walls have been knocked out to create a light, bright, inviting space. It’s painted white, and has works by local artists decorating the walls (all for sale at surprisingly reasonably prices). There’s the café, a hang-out space with comfy sofas and a craft area, all in one big, open plan room.
The craft area is a lively, creative space that lends the cafe an extra buzz. Inkwell Arts is run by Leeds Mind, an independent charity which aims, as they put it, ‘is to enable individuals with mental health problems to flourish.’ The building, the café and the arts and crafts are not just for service users though. That’s the whole point; this is an open venue, accessible – literally and figuratively – to everyone.
There are loads of fantastic things going on there. For starters, there are classes in art and ceramics, life drawing, digital photography, song writing and salsa, among other things (there are too many to list here!) There’s also a gardening group to help transform the huge former beer garden into a useable community space. On top of that (yes, really, there is more), there’s an acoustic night once a month, artist talks and a totally cool, absolutely top secret thing that you can only find out about by going to their website.
You probably want to know about the food too. Let’s jus say it was fantastic. The best vegetarian food I’ve had in a long time, apart from what we cook for Veggie Runners, of course. Wholesome, delicious and at knock down prices too. We had the Mezze Platter (£4.50), the Filo Tart (£4.00), the Egyptian Spiced Lentil Soup (£3.00) and some Carrot Cake (£2.00) In case you think we’re greedy oiks, I should point out that there were three of us. All of the food was tasty, the portions were substantial and the atmosphere was friendly, arty and fun.
At the moment, the café is open on Saturdays 10am-4pm. If it generates enough interest it will open more often and for longer though. On the strength of our visit, both of these things are distinct possibilities. Thoroughly recommended. Oh, and it has wi-fi. Inkwell wins a gold star for being the first, and only, 21st century vegetarian café in Leeds.
This review first appeared on The Culture Vulture.