Based on the Canny Food blog over the last month or so you’d think all that’s available to vegans in restaurants is pizza. There was a time where we’d be whipped into an online frenzy about vegan cheese, as well as meat free burgers. Since the arrival of Grumpy Panda in Gateshead and the adoption of widely available menus in chains like ASK and PizzaExpress I feel we have those bases well and truly covered here in Newcastle now. But the foodie scene in cities like London and Brighton surrounding the concept of vegan ‘junk food’ reminded me of how far behind we are up here in the North. I’d priced up train tickets on many an occasion with the sole purpose of visiting Temple of Seitan in Hackney or V-Rev in Manchester, both restaurants that had garnered praise in the vegan community for their own special take on the Colonel’s classic.
We’d been teased for months about the opening of a new vegan place in Byker. Joining Chucho’s on Shields Road is Junk It Up, run by the same team behind the ever popular Bohemian on Newcastle’s Pink Lane. We popped along on its first day (20th Dec) and there was already a queue building during lunchtime service. For those neighsayers who don’t think there’s a demand for vegan food, you couldn’t be more wrong!
The menu is limited at the moment but there are plans to add more options in the upcoming months. I think this is a sensible approach with any new business, although it is clear based on the name that there won’t be salads and raw food served up here any time soon 🙂
The speciality is Southern Fried ‘Frickin’ (3 pieces £4), made much in the same way KFC is with a secret blend of over 12 herbs and spices. Instead of chicken a soya based alternative is used as a replacement and it works really well. The Teen was impressed with the way the pieces behaved when I pulled them apart, and there was definitely the same sort of texture and taste you’d expect from a piece of chicken. Some vegans may not be keen on this, but for me these ‘cheats’ are making veganism more mainstream and ‘palatable’ for those who feel they couldn’t live without meat. One of the things that made me like fried chicken as a meat eater was the crispy coating but hated the grease and picking the meat off the carcass. With Fricken you get none of that!
He chose to try the Bourbon Kebab (£6.50), which was marinaded in a rich BBQ sauce. It came in a flatbread and with plentiful salad, something he complained no end about. That kid is allergic to vegetables the way he goes on! He was definitely envious of my choice and I kindly allowed him to share the 3 pieces of Fricken I’d got as a ‘side’. He did say he liked the ‘meat’ in his kebab and I concurred.
My main was the Fricken Classic Burger, which comes topped with vegan cheese. I’ve only realised that the lettuce was missing at the time of writing and it would have added a fresh crispness to the sandwich. I really couldn’t fault it and I think people will be quite surprised by how realistic these alternatives are.
There are sweet treats available and the Brownies (£2.50) are fantastic, if a little on the rich side. I took mine home and had heated with ice cream later on. Definitely one to share!
There are folk who will no doubt chime in with their thoughts on what vegans should or shouldn’t be eating and I couldn’t give a fig, to be perfectly frank. Provided it has not been created with any cruelty to animals involved then I’m fine with eating it. That is the major concern when it comes to the dietary choices I’ve made, if other people feel differently then that’s up to them but veganism and eating raw or clean don’t necessarily go hand in hand. I think it is great to see broader options becoming available for vegan food in the city – especially from an independent – and I look forward to returning to try more from Junk It Up over the upcoming months. I can delay a trip to the Big Smoke for the time being!
Thanks for reading,