Nestled in the 1904 Hall of Leeds’ Kirkgate Market is a crepe stall with vegan options. Thomas Chalk didn’t want to wait until Shrove Tuesday to give it a try.
I’m a big fan of Leeds’ Kirkgate market. I work nearby and buy a lot of my fruit and veg there, often combining it with getting away from the office for a change of scene and a spot of lunch. The food court area that opened up a few years ago has some good vegetarian and vegan offerings, but don’t forget the rest of the market for places to eat, too.
Up at the top at the Vicar Lane end can be found Creative Crepes. Under the moniker The Crepe Hut, they’ve been around for about seven years, but had a refurbishment and name change about a year ago, introducing a new range of vegan pancakes at the same time.
As I’ve written before, I am a vegetarian rather than a vegan; but between my nagging conscience and Veganuary just around the corner, I’m particularly keen on exploring entirely plant-based foods at the moment. I have always eaten a lot of food that is vegan by default – vegetable-based dishes that don’t have any ‘replacement’ components – and so it is the newer ‘meats’ and ‘cheeses’ that are the unknown. There have been lots of developments in recent years in alternatives to eggs, focusing at least as much on their role in providing structure as on recreating their flavour. The structure of a crepe is pretty simple, so how hard can it be? (The answer to this rhetorical question is: harder than you might think; while a pancake doesn’t need the airy rise of, say, a sponge cake, the egg stills brings an important lightness and fluffiness.)
Creative Crepes’ vegan options cover both sweet and savoury, including vegan versions of spinach, cheese and mushroom, ham and cheese, chocolate and strawberry, and Biscoff and chocolate (for the uninitiated, Biscoff are caramelised biscuits that sometimes arrive beside a coffee, and more recently have become available in spread form). I opted for the vegan chicken, cheese and mushroom crepe. The crepe itself had the lightness and fluffiness that I was worried would be missing, and a richness that egg would normally have brought. Had I been served this crepe without knowing it was vegan, I doubt it would have occurred to me that it was made with No Egg powder.
The filling was good too. Having not eaten chicken for over thirty years, I can’t comment on how well it mimics chicken, but it avoided the plant-based ‘meat’ clichés of being cardboardy and tasteless. There was a hint of smoke about the flavour, and enough of a lightly-herbaceous savoury quality to be satisfying. A generous hand with the mushrooms added more body and taste, and I suspect they were lightly cooked before going into the crepe, being neither excessively soggy nor raw (two of the great fungi crimes in my book). The vegan cheese, while not meltingly stringy nor so tangy as its dairy counterpart would have been, was soft and moist, and rich enough to complete the filling trio nicely. We still aren’t at the stage of vegan cheese working (for me at least) as a near-identical substitute, but we are at the stage where it is a good enough ingredient in its own right.
As with all establishments that don’t cook exclusively vegan dishes, it is up to each potential customer to decide how they feel about the shared equipment. Creative Crepes’ tiny kitchen means it is impossible to have separate hot plates for vegan and non-vegan crepes. The hotplates are oiled with sunflower oil rather than butter, though, which reduces the crossover of non-vegan ingredients.
Come next month, when I will be eating entirely plant-based, I personally will be very happy to visit Creative Crepes while I am stocking up on onions and potatoes.