As a vegan, it’s notoriously hard to eat out – but not at The Old Red Bus Station, because they’ve just launched the city’s first 100% vegan cantina.
Cantina is a natural progression for The Old Red Bus Station. They already have a hugely successful venue, and one that has a little something for everyone – this is not just a bar, after all, it’s an art gallery, a club and gig venue, all rolled into one. It should come as no surprise then that they’ve added another string to their bow – and it’s a first for Leeds.
Their 100% vegan cafe is a first for Leeds, and while it may have arrived a year after their initial opening, it’s always been part of the plan. “We had always intended to open a canteen after launching. Leeds city centre primarily caters for meat eaters, so we wanted to provide delicious nutrition for the vegan community as well as creating a menu that could enable everyone the opportunity to try something new and diverse,” Bookings and Promotions Manager Alexander Wilson told us.
Luckily, they found the perfect man to head it up – you might have heard of Billy Collins, he’s the brains behind Honest Edibles, a popular street food concept that’s earned hoards of fans at Leeds University Union Farmers’ Market and at festivals across the country. His brand of continental vegan eats, made with sustainable, ethically-sourced, local and seasonal produce was exactly what the guys at The Old Red Bus Station were looking for.
“His passion for veganism really shines through in his menu,” Wilson gushed. “The vegan diet can be viewed as quite limited, and the stigma attached to veganism can give a narrow idea of how the food can taste as well as the amount of variety available, we’re keen to show that isn’t the case.”
Cantina will be serving up a mix of main meals and tapas dishes. The former includes a duo of burgers, a vegan favourite, but it’s not just your standard fare. They’ve got a black bean, seitan and beetroot-infused burger that’s absolutely loaded with protein, so even though you’re forgoing the meat, you’ll still get a really filling meal. That’s accompanied by their pulled jackfruit burger, smothered in their homemade whisky-infused smoked BBQ sauce – and if you don’t want a burger, you go can for fajitas instead.
But while the mains are tempting, the tapas gets us every time. Vegans are so often limited in their choices, but here you can go wild, trying a little bit of everything. It’s an opportunity that’s too good to miss, so go on – get the quinoa falafel bites and creamy daal, try the chorizo albondigas and the popcorn tofu, snaffle the pisto frijoles and the plantain chips – the world is your oyster.
And it’s not just for vegans. This is interesting creative food that everyone will enjoy, and if you’re coming in as a meat-eater, trying it for the first time, Wilson has a couple of recommendations for you, “The Hells Fire Seitan Strips provide a nice bridge for those who are generally meat eaters (it also comes with scotch bonnet sauce which really gives it a kick). The jackfruit burger is also delicious and is our most popular dish which is similar in consistency to pulled pork (without the meat), we’re all about showcasing newer flavours and spices within the vegan world.”
The food (which includes pudding – raw chocolate & beetroot fudgey brownie anyone?) is accompanied by a mighty fine selection of vegan drinks, whether you’re after wine, beer or cider – and it’s served up in a cool, quirky space that’s as colourful as the menu.
Right now, Cantina is open from 5pm to 10pm, Tuesday to Saturday, but they have plans to open earlier, so lunch may soon become a possibility. Hell, maybe we’ll even get an all-vegan breakfast some day. Look out for their upcoming events too, because they are planning to give The Old Red Bus Station punters a taste of the food every Saturday in May.
Cantina at The Old Red Bus Station, 101 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7NL.