It was one of the most unlikely dinner dates of the year.
Some people would have to pay good money to get a vegan and meat roast lover on the same restaurant table.
But it was simply the challenge that got omnivore reporter Robert Sutcliffe to sit down with myself, the Examiner’s resident vegan, at Huddersfield’s only vegan eatery, Goat Cafe.
It was definitely an eye-opening experience for Robert, who proudly boasts that he “only once made a vegetarian meal by accident.”
Yet even he found the trip to the Trinity Street cafe to pass in an “enjoyable blur.”
We took the last free table in the cosy venue, already a popular haunt despite only opening last week.
Despite the jokes that can be made about why it got its name, owners Dawn Silver and Matt Wood said the only loose reason they chose the name was that last year was the Chinese year of the Goat, when the cafe was due to open.
We started with drinks menu, non-alcoholic for the moment until it gets permission to serve something a little stronger.
I went for mint tea, while Robert plumped for a freshly-squeezed orange juice.
“It’s very refreshing, but it will be even better when they get the alcohol licence”, he said.
I thought it would be the sausages and mash that got Robert’s vote from the blackboard choices, but wanting to push out the boat, he went for a lentil and sweet potato curry with parathas, a flaky flat bread.
“It’s more authentic”, he said.
I meanwhile struggled to make a choice- vegans usually only get a couple or just a look of pure horror when sometimes trying to dine out in the countryside– so to have several sent my brain into a minor meltdown.
While we waited, Robert, the man who often eats meat three times a day waxed lyrical.
“I’ve never been in a vegan cafe before.
“As someone who can eat a bacon sandwich or two for breakfast, roast beef sandwich for lunch and then perhaps lamb chops for dinner I wouldn’t dream of it if it wasn’t for professional purposes.
“But it all looks very nice.”
Our food soon arrived.
And Robert, who had not eaten since the evening before to prepare himself, took no time to tuck in.
I did the same with my salad, hummus and aubergine dips with crunchy pitta chips and vegan coleslaw, with vegan mayo.
It was crisp, full of flavour and filling– a real winner.
Robert also gave a positive verdict.
“It’s delicious and spicy”, he said. “And the paratha is wonderfully tasty.”
Then came the perhaps surprise confession: “I could happily eat vegan food for the rest of my life. It’s just all about what you’re used to. In my family we always had Sunday lunch with all the trimmings.
“The only time I cooked a vegetarian meal my family were furious and I think they’ve only started talking to me again now. It’s all about friendship, so if you’re eating it in convivial circumstances it’s perfectly agreeable.”
In true dine-out style, we looked to see what was for pudding.
Robert chose the chocolate chip tart with soya ice cream, the dessert that proves that you can indeed make a vegan fat.
I went for the griddled pineapple, served with mint chocolate sauce and ice cream.
“You wouldn’t know you were eating vegan food if you hadn’t been told”, said Robert, tucking in.
“I’m not sure how they make the ice cream but it’s very clever.”
I discovered mint, chocolate and pineapple was my new favourite flavour fad.
It gave a more decadent edge to something healthy.
The verdict was an astounding thumbs up from both.
“I look forward to coming again but I’m a creature of habit so don’t know if I’ll come back in my free time”, said Robert.
“It’s opened my eyes.
“Meat eating and dairy products are such big business in our country that it’s hard to imagine the vegan lifestyle being anything other than a borderline choice.
“But I can honestly say that I could happily eat this kind of food every day and not miss meat at all.
“I’ve seen how easy it would be to become vegan if all food tasted as good as this.
“And best of all there was none of that bloated feeling you get after an enjoyable Sunday lunch when you collapse in front of the fire in a kind of torpor
“At the end of the day, what you eat is only habit when all said and done.”