Caravanserai: North African street food with vegan options
I’m always on the lookout for new places to grab a falafel wrap, and so I’m well pleased to have discovered a great new North African and Middle Eastern street food place in Leeds City Centre, called Caravanserai. If you’re near the Corn Exchange then you can’t miss it. It’s the tall, quirky-looking maroon building just across the road from the Corn Exchange.
Whilst not a dedicated vegan or vegetarian restaurant, Caravanserai does offer a good range of vegan-friendly dishes in addition to the falafel wrap, including various kinds of houmous, dips, side dishes and salads. I’ve included a full list at the bottom of this article.
I had a chat with Kada the proprietor, who also operates the nice Cafe Moor at the top end of Leeds market, and found him to be passionate about the food he serves at Caravanserai. Kada’s from Algeria and has travelled all over North Africa and the Middle East researching how to create authentic dishes, and explains:
“I like people to experience what I have experienced and what I have learned. I believe in simplicity of food and authenticity of flavour.”
Kada has certainly done a good job with his falafel wraps (£3.50), which are definitely flavoursome, tasty and authentic. Kada says that “When you add in too many ingredients, you remove authenticity” and he’s right – as the wrap is not overstuffed with extra ingredients such as salad or pickles, you can really taste the falafel.
A really nice feature of Caravanserai is the first floor dining area, decked out in traditional North African style with rug-covered walls, big wooden tables and cupboards filled with authentic jugs and trinkets. Caravanserai takes bookings for the banquet room and I can definitely see it being a popular venue for future vegan gatherings! If you book for a large group (i.e. 10 or more) and give him advance notice, Kada can even prepare special vegan dishes for you.
Dishes aren’t marked as vegan on Caravanserai’s current menu, but Kada’s well aware of what is and isn’t vegan; he went through the menu with me and picked out the following items:
• Falafel sandwich
• Falafel burger is vegetarian but can be made vegan – just ask for no cheese
• Houmous, traditional houmous, beetroot houmous and harissa houmous
• Two dips – baba ghanoush and black olive tapenade
• Dolma (stuffed vine leaves), mouhamara (spicy harissa mixed nuts with bread crumbs and olive oil) and mixed olives
• Ful medames (warm dip made from crushed broad beans)
• Tabouleh salad, Algerian salad, fatoush salad and Palestinian salad
I’m looking forward to trying some more of Caravanserai’s dishes, as having tried the falafel I know they’re going to be good!
1 Crown Street
Leeds LS2 7DA
0113 234 1999
Open Mon – Sat 8 a.m. – 2 a.m.