Stan Graham samples the vegan delights at Roots and Fruits cafe and gives us his verdict on his completely meat-free dining experience.
After seeing a feature about the Grand Arcade on this very website I decided to see what was on offer there food wise. From a choice of four or five establishments ranging from far eastern street food to genteel tea rooms I decided to get in touch with my veggie side and visit Roots and Fruits. The main reasons were that it is more of the type of establishment that I prefer to visit, it’s a day and early evening venue, and the menu looked interesting.
It was ironic that I should choose a vegetarian eatery as I had come into Leeds on the top deck of the bus from Harrogate and was looking at the deer with their fawns in the grounds of Harewood House. I could not help but congratulate myself, along with carnivores like me, as were it not for our eating venison these lovely animals would not have been born and here they are being pampered in one of England’s finest stately homes.
The room at Roots and Fruits is pretty basic, with utilitarian tables and chairs, but has a shabby chic charm. From the menu I chose The Whole Bowl at £6.95 which seemed to be the tasting menu in one dish. The elements were chipotle black beans, brown rice, mango salsa, guacamole, coconut sour cream, fresh coriander and Roots and Fruits special vegan cheesy sauce. When I ordered it the waiter said that it was his default item on the menu. I asked what his default accompaniment was and he recommended a small side of sweet potato wedges (£1.95). I took his advice even though he said that the main dish should be enough. To drink I ordered a pot of tea at £1.55. There was a comprehensive selection of hot and cold soft drinks on the menu along with an invitation to bring your own alcoholic refreshments if you wished, although £3.00 corkage was added.
The dish was a riot of flavours – in a good way. The spiciness of the black beans was complemented perfectly by the freshness of the mango salsa. The guacamole was lovely and light, not quite a mousse, but much better than the heavy stuff you get in Mexican restaurants. The sweet potato wedges were well cooked with no hint of grease but the waiter was probably correct in saying that they may have been a bit much in addition to the main event. All in all, this was one of the nicest surprises I have had in a restaurant for quite a while.
Although I had probably over ordered on the main course, I would not have been doing my job had I not had dessert. I enquired about the sticky toffee pudding and the waiter confirmed my suspicion that it was probably a bit too heavy after my choice of main. This time I did take his advice and opted for the rice pudding at £3.95. The menu suggested that I ask what fruit was available and was told, somewhat apologetically, that they only had apple today. I settled for this. The rice pudding is made with ‘non-dairy milk’ which seems to be either almond or coconut. The result was a wonderfully creamy dessert with the sharpness of the raw apple slices contrasting perfectly.
As you will have gathered I was very much taken with the food, but what really makes this establishment stand out is the service. The food does take a little longer to arrive than you would wish should you be on a limited lunch break, although most of my fellow diners seemed to be taking lunch at a leisurely pace. The waiter enhanced the experience by being very pleasant but neither patronising nor over attentive. Another nice touch was that on the blackboard which displays the specials of the day, there was a footnote informing diners as to which chefs were on duty that day.