Vegetarian and Vegan 8: Gron Kafe

 

This Scandi-inspired eatery tells you to ‘keep it clean’ with its mostly plant-based dishes. Thomas Chalk seeks a bit of hygge in the lagom.

Healthy food and clean eating are the order of the day at Grön, with an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan dishes. It’s not that plant-based eating is inherently healthy, of course, but there is frequently cross-over between these approaches to food. There is more than a hint of the puritanical in the association between ‘clean’ and healthy, but Grön is not to blame, as the trope is well-worn, and as many eateries (not least some vegan ones) wear ‘dirty’ as a badge of honour. There’s a place for both, and mid-morning on a blustery February day could equally benefit from hearty stodge or, as we went for at Grön, something based on freshness and vibrancy.

All photographs by Cath Kane.

The menu is divided into brunch, small plates and winter warmers – the latter no doubt will change as the seasons do, as I suspect will some of the other dishes. Although tempted by the pancakes – our apologies to the guy next to us for openly ogling his food as it arrived – we opted for a couple of small plates and a winter warmer. It’s a small menu if you disregard the brunch items – just ten dishes – and so it’s not unreasonable that there are just three vegan options. A good proportion of the brunch items – including the pancakes – are vegan, and there’s no extra charge for plant-based milk.

Our small plate selections were both combinations on sour dough toast. First, cambozola cheese, pickled beetroot, beetroot and fresh horseradish relish. Beautiful to look at, with slender discs of raw golden beetroot punctuating the deep purple of its lightly-pickled cousin, adorned with an edible flower. The relish lacked punch, however – the promised horseradish was undetectable, and while the subtle pickling of the larger pieces of beetroot allowed the vegetable’s earthy sweetness to shine, here there would have been room for a slug more acidity.

Also on toast were pickled wild mushrooms, fried mushrooms, hollandaise sauce and poached egg. For me, this was the best of the trio we ordered, with the lightly vinegared mushrooms and subtle citrus tang of the hollandaise cutting perfectly through the richness of the eggs and butter. The greedy part of me is tempted to say it needed a spoonful more of the hollandaise, but that’s as much for love of the sauce as anything, and once the yolk ran from the egg to join the rest of the ingredients, the combination of textures was just right. There are cafes in Leeds that will sell you mushrooms and eggs on toast for less than £7.50, true, but you could taste what the extra pound or two buys you here.

The winter warmer of macaroni, truffle cheese, mushrooms and herb crumb was a smallish portion for the £8 price tag, no doubt reflecting the inclusion of the truffle. For me, the problem with truffles is that the flavour can dominate and, after even a few mouthfuls, become a little boring with its diesel-inflected pungency. Splitting this small portion of pasta between two of us was certainly the right choice for us. Again, Grön is not to blame here, and truffle-lovers will likely find this much to their taste, but for me the mushrooms were rather lost, and a slightly less ‘clean’ attitude to the ratio of cheese sauce to pasta would have benefitted everything except my waistline.

I’m possibly not Grön’s target audience, in fairness, and have largely ignored the weekend supplements’ fawning over Scandi life, style and lifestyle that has been all the rage in the last few years. (I had to hunt around the internet to find the definitions of hygge and lagom. For fellow uninitiates they are, respectively, a Danish word meaning cosiness; and a Norwegian word meaning just enough, with overtones of mindfulness and sustainability.)

For what we spent, I think I might have liked to be a fraction fuller. But Grön’s light and airy interior was a welcome haven from the grey damp of an early February morning, and the staff were impeccably warm and friendly. The coffee is good, and the guy next to me looked mightily pleased with his pancakes.

Gron is at 454 Roundhay Road and is open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. seven days a week.

0113 345 7273

Thomas moved to Leeds in 2001 after a few years in Bristol and a childhood in Hull. He cooks (and eats) a lot, and intermittently blogs about it at https://toomanycookingblogs.wordpress.com/

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