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Supper Club: Seitan Hustle

In his latest food review Tim Christian needs to get a room with his meat free kebab

My first knowledge of Seitan Hustle was a shared Instagram story for a competition to win a free takeaway, showing a picture of incomprehensible delights, colours and textures jumbled together in a mouth-watering, eye-rolling display. I was… intrigued.

This post was, among others, one of the catalysts for me to start writing about food, a dawning realisation that something new and different was on offer in the local area and in Fleetwood of all places (this is not intended as a slight towards Fleetwood, which I love dearly as the land of my father, but it’s not where you’d predict a culinary renaissance to kick off). 

As the months went on, and especially as I launched myself into that year’s Veganuary I began to hear more and more about Seitan Hustle and have it recommended to me on numerous occasions. Following them on social media I pored over their pictures with salivation and fascination in equal measure – I was not previously familiar with seitan, a meat analogue made from wheat gluten and long used as an ingredient in Chinese cooking to make noodles and as an alternative to meat products. Seitan Hustle quickly approached the top of my list of must-visit places to eat.

In a way it doesn’t matter that they’re a vegan-only takeaway (except of the small matter that being healthy and cruelty-free is central to their ethos) because the great thing about Seitan Hustle is that it isn’t good for vegan food, its just good food.

Seitan Hustle has now moved into Blackpool, with a takeaway on Bloomfield Road offering a slightly smaller menu but I first visited the Fleetwood branch only to be met with disaster – they had run out of seitan kebab! Given that this was the very item I had intended to make this trip for I was pretty gutted, especially as I’d been meaning to visit for so long and and so rarely found myself up this way. I consoled myself with three things: the high demand meant it must be good; the rest of the menu looks and sounds just as appetising; and now I also had a perfect excuse for a return trip.

Mildly traumatising disappointment aside I was very excited to try this place out, and decided I would go for the recommended option of the salt and chilli tofu kebab combo with the hash brown fries.

Crispy tofu kebab

Inside Seitan Hustle is a fairly simple, but very clean and well presented takeaway with a few seats for dine ins. Reassuringly busy for early on a Sunday evening, I was told there would be a bit of a wait on orders which I obviously said was fine – wild bulls wouldn’t keep me from trying this place out. In the end the wait was short, the conversation in the interim convivial, and the customer service spot on. Collecting my food I left to find a spot to eat and I knew exactly where I planned to go.

Say what you want about the Fylde Coast (and there’s plenty to be said), but I do love to watch a good sunset over the sea. I’ve spent loads of beautiful evenings after a day’s skating, hanging out, walking, working, whatever, and just stopping to watch the sun disappear over that horizon. It gets me every time. I drove from Seitan Hustle down to Cleveleys prom and parked up on the front. Positively salivating with anticipation and the incredible smell I was currently floating in, I got down to the business of the evening.

The food looked amazing, everything about it was exciting – just as vibrant and fresh-looking as every post I’d seen before, an incredible achievement in presentation for a takeaway. And that was just the look, anything can be jazzed up to look nice, but digging in (and believe me, I went in headfirst) I was blown away by just how good this food was. I’ve no doubt the seitan donner kebab is just as good as this, but I was more than satisfied with the alternative. The tofu was light and crispy and just mmmmhhmhnnnhhnh, the hash brown fries were absolutely divine and full of flavour without being the grease sponges that hash browns can so often be.

I only hope none of the various dog walkers and passers-by were overly alarmed by the chunky bearded man making a disgrace of himself, but at the time I simply did not care. I was somewhere else, transported by food that had absolutely lived up to every expectation I had set for it and then some. There was a lot going on in those trays, but every part of it added something and unlike a lot of kebabs/wraps where you could easily pick out the good stuff and leave the rest, this was infinitely improved by eating it as a whole item, with all the ingredients coming together in an incredible combination of taste and texture. Without hyperbole, I can honestly say this was one of the best takeaways – hell, one of the best meals – I have ever had.

Of course I did return for another round and finally tried the seitan kebab, I had a very nice chat with the owner, Tony, who hadn’t been in the night I was last there. It was great to have a bit of a chat about the place and the food and I even got another restaurant recommendation, reinforcing the fact that not only does Seitan Hustle do great food, they’re also proper sound folk as well.

After getting my much anticipate donner order in I picked up my food and made my way back to the same spot where I’d embarrassed myself last time – I’m going to get a reputation, I swear to god. Could this kebab possibly live up to the expectations I had for it? Well, the answer is a slamming, smashing, resounding YES.

Seitab donner kebab

I’ve never tried seitan before, so I had no idea what to expect, but I have tried kebab meat before, so I knew what to aim for and Seitan Hustle gets it spot on. The place where most meat alternatives fall down is in texture, but this was so phenomenally tender with no graininess, unwelcome chewiness or other slightly-wrong-uncanny-valleyness. It was perfection. And this leads me onto another philosophical conundrum when it comes to vegan food and its appeal in a still meaty world.

In a way it doesn’t matter that they’re a vegan-only takeaway (except of the small matter that being healthy and cruelty-free is central to their ethos) because the great thing about Seitan Hustle is that it isn’t good for vegan food, its just good food. I’ve heard people say they don’t want to eat there because they can “just go to a regular takeaway if they want a burger/kebab” etc, but that’s totally missing the point – the Hustle doesn’t do a passable vegan version of other takeaway choices, it does them better.

It’s understandable that to be successful a vegan food outlet you would need to emulate meat products because we do fundamentally live in a meat-based society when it comes to diet and meat free and vegetable elements are usually supporting acts to the meaty headliner. The success of these foods is often measured in how closely they emulate actual meat rather than celebrating them in their own right and it’s this point of view that should be challenged. This isn’t a criticism of places like Seitan Hustle which, to its credit, doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not – it is plant-based and proud, offering delicious food whilst extolling the health, environmental and moral benefits of vegan food.  

Visit Seitan Hustle because it is awesome and good to the point where it’s not fair on other takeaways.

Seitan Hustle is at 208-210 Lord St, Fleetwood and Seitan Hustle Express is at 129-131 Bloomfield Rd. Read our previous Q&A with the owner Tony here.

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    A hungry guy in search of tasty treats across the Fylde Coast. Additional spicy opinions are also available.

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