Anja Madhvani can’t get enough of the new vegan chippy tea
I’M no chef, but I know one thing for sure: all foods can be improved by the simple art of deep frying; tempura veg, arancini, pizza base (check out Frizza if you don’t know what I mean). Think about it and you’ll see that I’m right. Most chippys have few vegan options, usually chips and little else. But the answer is here in the form of JJ’s Vish & Chips, who are serving up a plethora of plant-based battered goods.
The magic of JJ’s is that they aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, they’re just making the wheel vegan-friendly
This is a modest spot on a corner of Kirkstall Road. The fridge is stocked with tins of Ben Shaws and Old Jamaica soda and the counter boasts a delightful seaside mural, sparking instant nostalgia for childhood trips to Whitby. I feel about twelve years old. I can’t stop fantasising about pickled eggs. I won’t find them here.
We are greeted by a cheery theatrical chap, who leaps into an animated explanation of the many pun-based fishy items. We order almost everything, which only horrifies him slightly. You haven’t seen me eat, fishman, I am insatiable.
There are some handmade pedestal tables outside, and we choose one of these. It seems appropriate to make the most of the sunshine. As we wait for our food, the hordes begin to arrive and a queue forms; people are starting to gather outside. Word spreads quickly – JJ’s hasn't been open all that long.
Food is ready and I collect it from the counter, choosing from the variety of vinegars and chip spices on offer. I proudly parade my beige feast past the hungry waiting, basking in their jealous glares.
We start with vish and chips (£6). The vish is made using banana blossom, which has a similar texture to jackfruit and imitates the flakiness of fish with surprising accuracy. It’s seasoned with a marinade of herbs and, I suspect, capers, with a hint of tartare sauce flavour about it. The batter is up there with the best, golden and crisp, and it binds well to the contents inside. I have no bad words for the chips, the finest of any fish and chips I’ve had.
Sosage and chips (£4.50) next. This was my favourite as a kid, and JJ’s take on the classic is bang on; in fact it’s better. The texture is dense and meaty, and the flavour is that of a Greggs sausage roll, which is pretty much all anybody wants from a saus in this context. It’s filthy good. I consider chips to be a vehicle for condiments, and the garlic mayo is hands down the best vegan mayo I’ve tried. We also have a pot of curry sauce, because only an idiot has chippy tea without it (£1.20).
Minted mushy peas (£1.20) taste like mushy peas mixed with mint sauce, which is all I ask of them. I guess they could have gone a little more ‘upmarket’ on these, but a chip shop is hardly the place for pretension, and part of the magic of JJ’s is that they aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, they’re just making the wheel vegan-friendly. Kalamari (£4) mimics the texture of squid convincingly, and the flavour is different once again. The star of the show has to be the Scam-pi (£4). This is not only authentically shaped, but even has little hints of pink peeking through the batter. The texture has a little more resistance to it too.
I was worried that this menu would just be a variety of differently shaped bland beige bites, but it was so much more than that. Each ‘fish’ has its own unique characteristics, from texture to colour, and even down to taste. JJ’s have curated some excellent substitutes to bring an authentic iteration of a classic chippy tea to the vegans of Leeds. The products use a variety of ingredients, some soya based and others mushroom.
We finish with banana fritters (£3.50), which are coated in a naughty toffee sauce and dusted with icing sugar. I’ve consumed enough batter to feed the population of Blackpool for a weekend, but I leave JJ’s with a silly grin on my face as I caress my food baby. The queue is still growing outside.
Since the time of visiting, JJ’s Vish & Chips have posted frequently on their social media pages to say they’ve sold out, so I’d recommend getting down early. This is good food, and I don’t mean ‘good considering it’s vegan’. Whether you’re veggie, pescy or a meat-eater, you’ll find something you can really enjoy here, there is no sense of this food ‘lacking’ in anything. I hope this imaginative spot will slowly change perceptions of vegan food.
We walk past a ‘real’ fish and chip shop on the way home. It’s completely empty. A sign perhaps of changing times.
, 402a Kirkstall Road, Leeds LS4 2QD
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Vish and chips 8, sosage and chips 9, curry sauce 8, mushy peas 7, kalamari 8, scam-pi 9, banana fritters 6
Friendly and helpful, but waited a little too long for food
A really warm buzz about the place