There are some people – and they know who they are – who think vegan food is a bit of a joke.
They can’t imagine a meal that doesn’t have animal protein in some form as its centrepiece.
But it might be vegans who get the last laugh, as a properly-balanced plant-based diet is known to be healthier. It’s certainly more ethical and better for the planet.
Both the World Health Organisation and the UN have said ‘the evidence that such diets will prevent or delay a significant proportion of non-communicable chronic diseases is consistent’.
In other words you can skew your chances of getting heart disease and cancer in the right direction by going vegan. Even just upping your fruit and vegetable intake will help, as most people in the UK don’t get enough.
When my son became a vegan a few years back I didn’t throw my hands up in horror or try to dissuade him.
Instead, I relished the challenge of providing vegan meals and found that my own vegetarian leanings came back into full force.
I can’t claim to be a vegan, but I eat sparingly of animal products and attempt to be meat, dairy and fish-free at least three or four days a week.
While the number of vegans is growing rapidly, it remains a minority lifestyle choice and, as such, is still not particularly well catered for by restaurants and cafes.
These days I always give menus the vegan once-over and have discovered that while vegetarian options are now reasonably commonplace they often fail to make the vegan grade. Too many chefs think cheese is an essential component of veggie food and you’d be surprised what milk, eggs and butter fat find their way into.
When Huddersfield acquired its first town centre vegan cafe, Goat, a couple of years ago, it became one of the few places we could eat as a family without having to question everything on the menu.
We’d just got used to dining there when the cafe closed following a quite bizarre social media meltdown over a customer’s comment on Facebook. The new owner, Alex Vickers, renamed it The Peppercorn Vegetarian Cafe and catered for both vegetarians (who eat dairy and eggs) and vegans (who don’t). That was back in April 2017.
Today the menu is now entirely vegan as Alex, a qualified nutritional therapist, has gained in confidence as a vegan cook. And it’s just as popular as it once was.
The cafe offers a good, pleasingly modest, selection of freshly-cooked dishes, including a daily special, soup, veggie burgers, hot wraps, vegetable chilli, and ramen bowl, cakes and snacks.
Prices are reasonable. For example, the crunchy, satisfying, sweet potato burger I had during lunch there came with tomato and lettuce and a side salad (I could have had sweet potato chips instead) for £7.50. And my son’s BBQ Jackfruit Wrap, with fries, was £6.50.
Jackfruit, I hear you say. What’s that? It turns out that jackfruit (national fruit of Bangladesh) is a large tropical fruit with fibrous flesh that has a delicate flavour of its own and is good at absorbing others.
For the wrap, it had been basted with a tangy BBQ sauce and topped with tomato and slaw, creating a moist, succulent and slightly sweet filling. Jackfruit is a low-calorie, fat-free source of fibre (and contains a small amount of protein) and has become the vegan ‘pulled-pork’.
My side salad of broccoli florets, seeds, grated carrot, grapes etc had been dressed with a light vinaigrette and tasted as good as it was healthy.
But when my first born’s sweet potato fries arrived I confess to a moment of chip-envy. After helping myself to one or two I can confirm they were hot, crisp and more-ish, as chips should be.
While this little cafe, converted from the front room of a Victorian terrace, is not the smartest eaterie in town, it has a friendly ambience and a main meal menu that might surprise those who think a burger has to be made from beef or that cheese has to be spread over everything. The service came with a smile and was swift enough to satisfy a lunchtime diner strapped for time.
As it happens we were so strapped for time we took our pudding away with us – substantial slices of almond frangipane tart that went down well with an afternoon cuppa back in the office.
Peppercorn is all about wholesome, comforting and healthy food and has no pretensions whatsoever to fine dining.
As well as hot food, it also has a range of fruit-based drinks, teas and coffee, cakes, ‘sausage rolls’ and something described as ‘porkish pies’ that look just like the real thing. Opening hours were recently extended to include a couple of evenings.
The fact that it’s consistently busy and attracts favourable comments on social media would seem to indicate that Peppercorn is hitting the spot and Huddersfield could probably accommodate more than one vegan restaurant. Certainly, other cafes and restaurants should take note: it’s worth having a properly vegan option (or two or three) on your menus.
I can’t wait to go back and sample some more - but next time I’ll be having my own sweet potato fries.
The Peppercorn Cafe
53 Trinity Street, Huddersfield
Phone: 01484 541515
Website: No website, search on Facebook
Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10am until 4.30pm; Saturday noon until 4.30pm; Thursday and Friday from 6.30pm until 9.30pm
Disabled access: Tricky as there are steps from the pavement
The bill: £24 for two.
Would you go back? Yes. Can’t wait!