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Home » Food and Drink

Inkwell Arts New Veggie Cafe Open

Submitted by on January 11, 2013 – 9:02 am5 Comments

Jayne Rodgers (@janeydodge) visits the new vegetarian cafe at Inkwell Arts over in Chapeltown, North Leeds. Sounds like a bit of a hit …

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, as well as offering a buzz of activity, creates a lively, creative and nurturing space. 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 usable 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. 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.

Jayne Rodgers is one half of veggie runners, a mother-daughter duo who provide gourmet vegetarian recipes, running tips, playlists and training chat.

The photos were taken by Simon Allen, photographer and drummer with indie funk band, The New Mastersounds.

Inkwell Arts is on Potternewton Lane, a short bus ride, car journey or jog from the city centre.

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  • Niccola Swan says:

    Thank you so much for this; we’re really proud of what the students and volunteers have achieved at Inkwell and it really is pretty amazing. The more we can do like this, the more opportunities we can provide through Inkwell. And we are privileged to work with so many people with fantastic ideas and the energy to make them happen. We look forward to welcoming you back for some more great veggie food very soon

  • Riley says:

    Ah cool. I live in Chapeltown so that’s just up the road from me. Do they have much of a vegan offering do you know?

  • Boris Cruse says:

    Hello Riley
    Thanks for the interest.
    We do have vegan options and we are commited to making it better.
    Come and say hello. All suggestions very welcome indeed.
    Always have vegan cake.

  • Anne-Marie says:

    Thanks for the interesting article, Inkwells sounds great and I can’t wait to check it out!

    However, I do need to say that I am vegan and find Leeds a fantastic place to eat out!! I feel compelled to say this because I feel it is important to debunk the myth the vegetarianism/veganism is a difficult (or un-fun) lifestyle to maintain, a myth that puts people off serious consideration of it.

    So, a couple of places that immediately come to mind if you want good veggy eats include:

    • Kadas (near the Corn Exchange) – vegan friendly mezze platter and truly wonderful mint tea
    • Little Tokyo (city centre) – fantastic array of Japanese vegan and vegetarian options and sorbet served in bowls made from frozen fruit!
    • Hansas (just out of the centre) – entirely vegetarian authentic Indian food (not grease-mongerers!)
    • The Grove (right next to Burley Coop) – sit in cafe or takeaway for delivery, a dedicated veggie/vegan menu that includes Indian food, vegan cheese burgers and vegan pizza!
    • Peach & Pear (Hyde Park) – sadly not entirely vegetarian as it used to be, but still does a cracking vegan fry up breakfast! The thai burger layered with strips of tofu is delicious too! Again, eat in cafe or take away delivery.
    • Oranaise (Hyde Park) – Moroccan cafe and restaurant, with super friendly staff and lovely options
    • Bibis (next to train station) – gourmet Italian food and stage shows! With a dedicated vegan/veggie menu that includes tofu, tempeh, and a vegan-friendly/gluten-free cheesecake for desert (to die for!)
    • Chaophraya (opposite Bibis)- Thai food in lovely decor, many options and even a vegetarian set-menu (can be adapted to be vegan)
    • Saengarun (city centre) – another great thai, slightly more modest settings but really lovely staff, they put on a set meal for my family that included vegan and nut-free options (for an allergy sufferer, they really did a lot to accommodate us).
    • Thai Sabai (Headingley) – great food and a lot of options, and do a really good value early-bird deal
    • Roots & Fruits (Grand Arcade)- Everyone just loves this place! Totally veggy, funny owners and hearty food.
    • New Ho Garden (Horsforth) – not a cafe but a Chinese takeaway that have an amazing menu that includes vegan crispy duck pancakes (unreal) and even weird vegan prawns! Not seen anything like them anywhere else.
    • Arcadia (Headingley) and East of Arcadia (Meanwood) – pub food with a few options and can adapt
    • Voodoo Lounge (Headingley) – the last place I expected to find a vegan meal but low and behold! Even got crispy kale chips on the side!
    • Bar Seven (near Parkinson building) – tapas with several options and live flamenco guitar
    • Bakery 64 (opposite Parkinson building) – great coffee and fabulous sandwiches on freshly baked bread, everything made in shop.

    And these is only the places I have been to! Still discovering more all the time.

    I have rarely been disappointed when eating out in Leeds, as long as you find somewhere with a genuine ethos about their food (and not a microwave meal-toting place like Weatherspoon, but wait! Even Weatherspoons have options now!!) Also, don’t be afraid to call in advance and make enquiries, most places are really more than happy to help. Not all of these places solely serve vegetarian food, but they still offer great options and a nice atmosphere, and the more that these options are supported the more proprietors will recognise the market for them.

    If anyone else knows of anywhere I’ve missed that you can recommend, I’d love to hear about them too!

  • Heather says:

    I have tried all main meals and love them all …looking forward to next week and my weekly cake fix. oh i am such a coffee snob…the coffee is fab !!

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