Make no bones about it - most vegan food is not to everybody’s taste.
God knows, I’ve tried. Apart from a decent curry at the Blue Moon Cafe, it’s mainly been nuts and seeds kind of... pushed together, as the solitary choice on a cafe menu. And vegan wine might feel guilt free but it just doesn’t seem to cut the mustard.
Yes, it has often proved disappointing.Until now.
The food at Make No Bones - which opened on Chesterfield Road in August due to demand around pop ups - was imaginative and tasty enough that it would have impressed even on the menu of a regular restaurant.
It might have worked for my meat-loving husband, if he hadn’t point blank refused to ‘spend a night eating salad.’
That’s the kind of myth that young, friendly Meersbrook co-owners Lauren Hird and Dave Shaw, together with head chef Natasha Dziubajlo, want to dispell. “Our menu is a good mix of things - comfort food and healthy food too”, said Lauren.
“It’s about showcasing that vegan food can be really diverse and whatever type of food you want to eat, you can do it as avegan.
“Although we are a vegan cafe we want to do good food that everyone wants to eat - a lot of people have come because they are curious, enjoyed it and come back.”
Natascha plans to change the menu with the seasons - the next switch changed just this week - with more emphasis on winter comfort eating.
She said: “It’s something that is really important to me, although I don’t want to go too far into the local food sourcing as some people see it as a bit pretentious.
“But we live in Britain and its important to showcase the food we have, especially when it is plant based, getting the best out of the seasons will make it taste better.
“We just want to keep people interested and satisfied.”
Several of the five or so tables at Make No Bones were already reserved when we arrived on a Tuesday night.
Inside is stripped back and simple - tin cans hold cutlery on the table, there are paper lanterns above the counter.
Despite the reservations you go up to the counter to order rather than having table service - although they let us go back for desserts without having to pay twice as some places do.
Ordering was also simple, with just three mains, sandwiches and salads to pick from.
I went for the southern plate (£8)- already recommended by a gym pal.
It arrived on a large, warm platter, looking almost like a dish you could expect at a barbecue joint.
Southern fried tofu was superb - a layer of crunchy and spicy crust encompassing balls of silky white tofu inside.
A heap of paprika- laced potatoes were golden and gorgeous, green beans had a hint of garlic and lemon, and there was barbecue corn on the cob. The latter proved difficult to eat with cutlery without sending kernels all over the table.
What brought the whole thing together was a thick gravy, not unlike puree in consistency, made of chickpeas.
Gravy purists might be horrified but there was plenty to like in the rich, well seasoned sauce, spiked with rosemary, once you got past the texture.
My guest was the closest I could get to a vegan - a veggie, self-proclaimed tree hugger, animal rights campaigner, and mother in law.
She had been disappointed with the lack of wine - though you can bring your own, and that, as well as Sheffield beers as Lauren and Dave have worked in real ale pubs, will be looked at in the future - and warned there might be olive stones in her main.
The aubergine rollatina (£7.50) turned things around.
More tofu had been made into a creamy ricotto and fine tomato sauce brought out the flavour of the vegetables without the need for any stodge.
The warning was a good idea, as there were a few hard bits. It was a hefty portion, with garlic bread and salad too, and more cheese, which Natasha sometimes makes from nuts.
“People are surprised that some of the things we make taste so good”, she said.
There were no checks on how things were - and our plates were left on the table until desserts arrived.
My peanut cheesecake looked lovely, with fine chocolate work on top.
It tasted better, a creamy, decadent firm filling with a nutty base.
Puddings are often where specialist cooking triumphs, and this was no exception.
Anne’s tiramisu had sponge lightly soaked in just enough espresso, topped with vanilla ice cream (made from soya, but tasting just like the real deal) and chocolate sauce.
With coffees from Sheffield sole roaster Frazer’s the bill came to just £26 - a small price to pay for filling two bellies, and discovering that vegan food can be just as tasty.
We left satisfied, but not too stuffed to enjoy a wine, or two, at Tramshed bar just down the road.
Make No Bones, 85 Chesterfield Road