Shokupan Leeds review: Here’s what I thought of a hidden Japanese cafe in the city centre
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Shokupan feels almost secret. Somewhere you would need to know about before going to, rather than a spot you would just happen upon.
It’s a smallish room off Wellington Street – and it’s probably quite easy to miss.
But, if you are passing at the right time, a hungry flock of office workers gathered by the door will give you a clue about the treats that wait inside.
The Japanese café opened at the end of last year, serving sandwiches made from a traditional milk bread called shokupan, which gives the venue its name.
At lunchtime, there are just three ‘sandos’ to choose from: chicken, pork or celeriac. The concise menu should assure customers of their quality. It’s clear that the kitchen team have chosen to perfect their staples, rather than overwhelm with options.
The interior is minimal and stylish. A muted, wooden scheme with framed Yayoi Kusama prints set against oak textured walls gives an almost Nordic feel, but would be just as suited to a Kyoto market as it would an Oslo shopping district.
It was only a 10 minute wait for a celeriac sando. Its sheer size made me question if I’d ever really had a proper sandwich before. How could this much food have been squeezed between two pillowy pieces of bread?
Crunchy white cabbage, Japanese mayo and sweet tonkatsu sauce, with a thick slice of breaded and deep-fried, earthy celeriac at the centre. Heaven.
I also went for Shokupan’s furikake fries – a generous serving of lightly oiled chips, coated in garlic, chilli and seaweed. Their delicious glaze was sweet and spicy, with a faint taste of the sea. I ended up taking them home, because the sandwich was so big.
The coffee was good too, but to say more about that would be to waste words that could be used to describe this sandwich.
Honestly, how is this not the go-to lunchtime meal? It is sweet and savoury, rich and moreish. A real treat for the office workers who are probably more used to supermarket sandwiches picked up around the corner.
There is something so gratifying about the soft, fluffiness of the bread giving way to crunchy vegetables and the crispy, meat-like celeriac. There must be a science to this working so well. I’d love to try another dish in the future but I cannot imagine ordering something else.
While small, it’s not just sandos that feature on the Shokupan menu. They have katsu curry, again with a choice of chicken, pork or celeriac, or tonkatsu rice with the same three options. The venue also recently launched an evening menu.
Evidently building in popularity, I hope the office workers in-the-know keep this hidden gem of a café on the down-low. And perhaps this review should not be published. I want Shokupan to remain a place where I can get a table immediately – and an enormous celeriac sandwich within 10 minutes.