The Cheese Yard: I tried this vegan steak at Trinity Kitchen in Leeds and couldn’t believe it wasn’t meat
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I am cautious of meat substitutes. They can be tough, mushy, chewy and under-seasoned – a poor tribute act in many cases.
Having ditched real meat just over three years ago, I found that taking a chance on an unfamiliar vegan replica isn’t normally worth the risk.
But I was astonished by the culinary coup pulled off by chefs at The Cheese Yard.
From a tiny food truck at the back of a shopping centre, they’ve faithfully recreated the Philly Cheesesteak without using a single cow.
It contains a soya-based plant steak which chews and tastes like real meat. The ‘Faux Philly’ also comes with caramelised onion, applewood smoked cheese and sweet Italian peppers served in a sub roll. It is a thing of beauty.
I ordered at the hatch, behind which stood four tightly-packed blokes working at frenetic pace. They were slamming through orders, scribbling down customers’ names and calling them back less than 10 minutes later.
“Olivia!”, “Adam!”, “Henry!”, ringing out in deep baritone across the food hall like a school register.
My sandwich was ready in an instant. Sat there alluringly on the counter, it looked like steak. It smelled like it too. The only giveaway, discovered later while admiring photos of my “meat”, was the light beige tint to the usually darker beef.
But this was not apparent through hungry eyes.
As I was with company, I resisted the Neanderthal urge to attack with my hands and instead politely excavated the sandwich with a fork in an impressive show of restraint.
The roll itself was gorgeously doughy.
But, as you would hope, the steak was the star: Unami, rich and peppery, it was as close to the real thing as it is possible to get.
And then I noticed the smoky cheese. And then the sweet caramelised onions.
And then, as the flavour profile continued to change, just as it was reaching its dramatic denouement…wham! The zingy peppers made themselves known, a plot twist at the end of a near perfect bite.
I was set back £11 by the sandwich. It’s more than I’d typically expect to pay, but the price-tag here is wholly justified. You can add fries for an extra £2.50, but you would never need to.
The lunch was both an experience and a science lesson. I formed a bond with that sandwich, but it made me question my grip on reality. If the chefs are to be believed and it really wasn’t meat, then they deserve applause.
And to the cynical carnivore, I would say this: the ‘Faux Philly’ is realistic enough to convince even the most ardent meat eater that a steak made from beans can be just as delicious as its bovine counterpart.