Global Tribe Café Leeds

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Global Tribe Café, Leeds, UK

18 Swan Street, Leeds
LS1 6LG

(0)11.3318.4289

~$30 USD/person with drinks (lunch)

Restaurant Type : Fine Dining | Casual
Diamonds : ♦♦♦♦♦♦ (0/6)

It’s not always easy being Vegan in downtown Leeds, though Hansa’s isn’t too far away, and Out Of This World stocks some decent grab-’n-go options. So, when we heard that Global Tribe, one of my wife’s favourite teenaged hang-outs, was opening a vegan cafe, we started to salivate.

We imagined nipping in for a quick bite in-between shopping at Blue Rinse and Wing Lee Hong, maybe in a warm grounded space, or somewhere airy and beautiful. A place channelling the beatniq-hippie vibe that had made us fall in love with the storefront almost despite ourselves.

Located up on the second floor, up a narrow staircase just to the right of Global Tribe’s primary entrance, the café is none of those things. We came, we saw, we chewed. All of our appetite was in vain.

Tucked into an economically used space, we tried to see Global Tribe Café as cozy. Diners elbows’ jostled and staff wended through the fray. Walls with stuck-on ‘jewels’ captured the light. A waitress spilled a bright green smoothie down somebody’s bag of new clothes. The customer was gracious, the staff-member barely apologetic. We were greeted and told the kitchen would be closing soon, which we said was quite alright. We’d come prepared, ready to order, and craving Cajun Jambalaya, and Asian Rice Wraps.

The server rolled her eyes.

The ‘jewels’ glued to the wall shone a little less brightly.

Still, we were game for the experience. The server disappeared for our cutlery, maybe? And came back ten minutes later to tell us the kitchen was closing in five minutes so we had better order.

We placed our orders meekly—fancy soda, Jambalaya, and Garden Rolls with Miso Soup. The server smiled, once, and disappeared into the kitchen.

Our pop arrived. We were famished, it disappeared in a giddy daze. Sugar, effervescence, life flowing back into our bodies. We made some gentle fun of the ‘inspirational’ platitudes on the coasters. The customer with the soiled garments went up to the counter to pay their bill and leave. Our soda was empty. We waited.

The food came, and was plonked down on the table. We looked at it. It seemed to look back at us. The ‘patties’ in the jambalaya settled into the coconut milk rice, like a captured animal disappearing into quick-sand.

Maybe in fact, the jewels on the wall were just tacky.

Still, we made a go of it. My darling girl gamely picked up a garden roll, the rice paper wrapping still opaque and leathery, rather than soft and translucent. I wanted to believe the look of it was some trick of the light. She tried to bite it. I saw her face fall.

“Is it alright?”

She is very polite. “Yes, yes it’s fine.”

For awhile I just stare at the affirmations on my placemat, on my coaster, on the wall. I try to recite them like a mantra. Maybe they are a little hysteric, or maybe it is just me, but I want to believe.

I try my jambalaya—a dish that I absolutely adore. My brother-in-law makes a famous one, and one of my favourite things about travelling in the south is the creep of cajun all across the lower states. I expect the sweet and savoury mix-up of celery, onion and bell peppers, the trinity that are the basis of the dish—and then a rich savoury kick of cajun flavour. The first bit I eat tastes more or less of nothing—mush and oil and a slickness. There is only enough spice to give the dish an unappealing brown-yellow tinge.

I try a cajun patty, naively believing that there may be some flavour somewhere. It’s a loose oily fritter with an unpleasantly spongey texture, if it has ever seen salt in its life, I don’t believe it. But oh god I’m hungry. I persevere for another few mouthfuls. I hope the staff might come by—I could beg for some salt. I feel like this is offensive really, a cultural misappropriation that is basically unforgivable. I can’t bring myself to eat another bite.

“Tube socks”

“Hmm?”

I look up, and my darling girl explains—“It tastes like white, Styrofoamy exercise socks. Would you like to try?”

In the name of science, I do. She’s right. The filling is rough, one lump of tofu, the stalky end of a bit of bok choy, really just three lumps of “thing” in an inedible wrap.

“It tastes like a pre-schooler made it,” she says.

And I agree.

“Would you like to try mine?”

She does. Her eyebrow quirks.

She eats a little more.

“Fuck it, I’m hungry.”

She soldiers on. In the end, one of the plates is bare, there is still half a Garden Roll left, it has been nearly 40 minutes and we’ve seen neither hide nor hair of a staff member.

I rarely have an experience at a restaurant that leaves me this cold. In my mind, I pick up my coat, put on my hat, and leave. This fantasy of performing a dine-and-dash is so compelling I feel my arms and legs twitch with the impulse.

“Will you take care of the bill? Please?” I beg. I know that I will be unforgivably rude and raging if I finally encounter somebody responsible.

She does, she walks up to the till, and I can see that she’s a bit tense, worried the staff will ask if it was OK—but when someone finally turns up at the till, the transaction is as perfunctory as the rest of our experience.

Normally, to write a review of a place I try it at least three times, but I don’t think I’ll be able to bring myself to go back. I’dlike to believe there is some good there that I have overlooked. In the meantime, Leeds deserves better.

Take yourself to Hansa’s instead. That’s what we do, directly after. We hate to spend the extra money, but, Christ, we’re famished.

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