Laynes

https://www.laynesespresso.co.uk/

I am pretty open minded when it comes to food, but try as I might, I cannot come to terms with the concept of midweek brunch. I associate the word with a long, lazy late weekend breakfast and the items on a typical menu do nothing to contradict this view. I have been wanting to review Laynes for years but they have never seemed to cater for people who have had breakfast at the conventional time and so want something a bit more suitable for 1.00pm on a rainy working day in February, when spending a couple of hours reading the papers over granola just doesn’t cut it.

It appears that I am in a minority of one when it comes to this train of thought because Laynes is one of the busiest eateries in Leeds. I made it even busier the other day when I saw on their website that they have started offering a dedicated lunch menu, an offering I couldn’t refuse.

I really wanted to enjoy my lunch at Laynes as the owner is a partner in that amazing pasta restaurant Sarto, one of my favourite spots in Leeds. This made the odds of my being disappointed about 20/1 on. Fortunately that was yet another bet on a hot favourite which let me down, as the meal I had was brilliant.

There were only three choices on the Lunch Special section of the menu but that didn’t matter because I only wanted one – don’t panic you brunch lovers, the breakfast style food range was far more comprehensive. The opening hours of 7.30am until 3.00pm would explain that. I did note that items on the menu are labelled Food, Sides, Sweet and Bakery, the headings Brunch and Breakfast being nowhere to be seen.

I settled on the Hot Smoked Salmon Fishcake with Pickled Cucumber, Creme Fraiche, Poached Egg and Lemon Dressing for £8. I had a Long Black Coffee at £2.90 to accompany the dish. The coffee arrived first and was superb. Not only do I take my coffee black but I don’t have sugar either so the only taste I get is of the brew. This was strong and on the bitter side, just as I like it. It wasn’t a face-pulling bitter but just enough to give it character and compliment the food in the same way as a decent glass of dry wine would, had they sold it.

The term ‘hot smoked salmon fishcake’ is a bit ambiguous, did it mean that the fishcake was served hot or that the salmon had been hot, rather than cold smoked. As it turned out both terms applied. The fishcake had been freshly cooked and the salmon within had a wonderfully flaky texture from being hot smoked, rather than the more silky cold smoked feel, which is great in sandwiches with cream cheese but probably not in a fishcake, especially one as wholesome as this. The potatoes which joined the salmon in the cake were cooked and left in small chunks. So many fishcakes are basically croquettes where the contents have been mashed together giving every bite the same flavour and texture. This was several cuts above those. The poached egg was perfectly cooked with the white solid and the yolk runny. The comforting combination of fish, potato and egg yolk is a classic and is one of my favourites. To offset the richness of the main components there was dressed cress, creme fraiche, dill and the most amazing pickled onion and cucumber. The accompanying wedge of lemon was left unsqueezed as I was afraid the pungency might overwhelm the main flavours and it would have been criminal to do that.

There is a Sweet section of the menu but, when I saw that the Bakery items were from Baltzersen’s in Harrogate, I had to go for one of those. I chose the Spandaur at £3.75, which is a Danish pastry with a topping of egg custard and jam which, along with the drizzle of icing made it a total treat. So much for eschewing brunch items. I just had to order a second coffee to go with it. Ignoring the teaspoon provided I used my hands to eat the confection which was every bit as good as I had hoped. It was so good that I considered ordering another one to take home but it seemed full of calories as well as taste and I didn’t want to develop Spandaur Belly – True. I also wouldn’t have been able to get a joke out of ice cream.

I must also mention the staff on both sides of the counter who were absolutely terrific. They were friendly and efficient making my visit even more memorable. Thank you.

Unlike a lot of things in life, this was an experience all the better for the long wait and I would urge you to be a bit more decisive than I and get along as soon as you can. If you can’t manage a working day lunch, might I suggest a late two-hour weekend breakfast with the newspapers. I am sure that there must be a name for that.

All photographs by Stan Graham

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Café 164

http://www.cafe164.com

I say, I say, I say! What do you get if you cross a library, an art gallery, a bakery, a coffee house and a philanthropic organisation? 
I don’t know, what do you get if you cross a library, an art gallery, a bakery, a coffee house and a philanthropic organisation? 
Café 164. 
I don’t wish to know that, kindly leave the page!


The other day I had an early afternoon appointment in an East Leeds suburb so I decided to walk it from the bus station. Before setting off I thought that a spot of food would be in order to make sure that the fuel tank was full enough to last me for the journey. I have called into Café 164 before but it was during the late afternoon and they were just about to close meaning that I couldn’t get a fair idea of the place so I decided to pay another visit at lunchtime and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. 

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On walking into the café which is in Munro House, on Duke Street opposite the bus station, you are confronted by a raised serving bar with the usual display cabinets and shelves. They seem to do a roaring trade in takeaway food as there were several people milling around waiting for their orders. I perused the wares and opted for a Bacon and Brie sandwich in ciabatta for £3.50 which I thought would fit the bill perfectly. The sight of squares of Raspberry and Hazelnut Cake at £3.00 got me wondering as to whether I would need additional energy for the walk ahead. No prizes for guessing which way my decision went. Finally I ordered a black Americano at £2.10, which I was told would be prepared and should be collected at the end of the counter shortly. At this point I discovered the main flaw in the system as there were no trays provided. Even though I didn’t have anything else to carry I only have two hands and so decided that I should find a table, deposit my eats and return for the coffee and napkins, which I did. Not greatly satisfactory. 

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When I found a space I put my sarnie and cake on the table and went back for the coffee at the far end of the counter, an exercise which nearly caused me to closely examine the flooring as there is a step down at the end of the bar which is not very well marked and so I missed it and lost my balance, just recovering it in the nick of time. I got my brew and returned to my seat. The table was for two people but, had I taken the chair which I first meant to, it would have caused the main access route from one part of the room to the other to be blocked, so I sat at the other side instead. Even so it was still a bit of a squeeze for those passing opposite.

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Once ensconced in my seat I proceeded to unwrap the sandwich. The bread was perfectly fresh and the filling generous. All of the bread is baked on a daily basis both on the premises here and at the take-away shop, Bakery 164 on Woodhouse Lane, so is wonderfully light and soft. They bake both ciabatta and focaccia using just water, extra virgin olive oil, yeast, flour and salt. As well as the fillings advertised on the wrapper there were lettuce and tomatoes, again perfectly fresh. The creamy brie had its normal fruity tang but it was the bacon which had the starring role. Bacon in cold sandwiches is usually either flaccid and fatty or crispy to the point of being borderline pork scratchings, this was cooked just right and very much on the lean side. There was a constant stream of people appearing from the kitchen and bakery round the back to replenish the displays which was good to see. 
I referred to the philanthropy earlier and this is displayed by giving any unsold sandwiches at the end of the day to food and homeless charities, meaning that as well as doing good, they ensure that every sandwich served has been freshly made that day. Win/win.


If the sandwich was very good then the cake was well up there with it. I thought that it might have been a bit heavy and that my eyes had made a promise my stomach couldn’t keep but it turned out to be lovely and light. The cherries were liberally spread amongst the piece and had a taste which was sweet with just a hint of bitterness to counteract the nuts and sweetness of the featherlight cake. 

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The coffee was just how I like it, being on the strong side, again with a hint of bitterness but not excessively so. Had it been a wine I would have called it a perfect pairing for both dishes, not a bad trick with one being sweet and the other savoury. 


On the previous visit to which I referred earlier, I had partaken of the Beef Pastrami with mustard mayo, spinach, vine tomato, Emmental cheese and dill chips which was also a superb combination and equally fresh even though purchased last thing.

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A look around the premises revealed that the walls were either bedecked with paintings and other artworks, or artworks in themselves, the most striking being that between the café and the kitchen/bakery. In the part of the space accessed by passing my table, there was an exhibition of screen prints by Mick Marston called From Angler To Helicopter (& Stuff In Between) which is running until 18th April so the eye had plenty to occupy it whilst chomping away.

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By the toilets there is a small library facilitating the exchange of books, which is a nice touch, hopefully not leading to people lingering longer than necessary in the facilities having become engrossed!

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I must say that I enjoyed my lunch very much indeed and, at £8.60 for the lot is much better in both value and ambience than the large chains in the city centre. So if you want something quick, fresh and good value then I suggest that you pop in but please, mind the step!

This article is also available on my other site Tyke It To The Limit

http://www.tyke-it-to-the-limit.com

All photographs by Stan Graham

Livin’Italy

A few years ago when I was in fairly handsomely rewarded employment I spent a year living in Candle House, the round building in Holbeck Urban Village which looks like a stack of pizzas.

It was a great place to live, only a couple of minutes’ walk to City Square and the train station, another couple of minutes’ drive to the motorway system and with a fine selection of bars and restaurants on the doorstep. My favourite haunt was Vineataly where I would call for coffee and a bite should the mood take me. They had to change their name after another establishment of the same name got a strop on and it became Livin’Italy and styled itself as a Bar, Italian Kitchen and Deli.  Fortunately, the casual vibe didn’t change.

All Livin’Italy photographs by Stan Graham

The reason I mention the above, apart from having to start my article somehow, is that I had arranged to meet an old, sorry, former, workmate for lunch and as they were coming by train I thought that this would be a good place to revisit. By using the new South Entrance to the station you come out in the dark arches about twenty yards from Granary Wharf, so before we knew it we were waiting to be seated. We were found a table for two in the upstairs room which, like the ground floor, is decorated in industrial chic style. They have also moved the Italian racing red motor scooter up here and it is displayed in the front window. Even though it was pushing two o’clock when we arrived the place was still fairly full with diners, and the buzz of conversation gave it a wonderful atmosphere.  I wasn’t going to write about the visit as I thought that someone might recognise me from the days when I was a regular, but the staff had changed and the boss, Alessandro, was on holiday. On thinking back, it is over six years since I moved away so it is not surprising no one knew me. Not only has the staff changed but the menu has too and is now much more expansive.

I began with Nduja, on crostini bread, topped with Stracciatella, a creamy mozzarella, then dressed with Rocket leaves (£7.50). Should you be unfamiliar with nduja it is a spreadable type of salami with added spices and a heavy kick of chillies, so approach with caution if you are not into hot tastes. If that is the case you may prefer what my friend had, the Bruschetta Pugliese which is Friselle crostini bread topped with an abundance of cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and dressed with fresh oregano and basil.(£5.95). The combination of fresh tomatoes and basil is a marriage made in heaven and this was divine.

For our main course we chose from the Meat and Fish section of the menu.  My choice was Braised Tuscan Sausage in Borlotti Beans served with char-grilled sourdough (£11.95).  The taste was amazing and comfort food par excellence. The seasoning of the sausage turned the humble banger into something very special and the beans in their sauce were a million miles away from the canned variety, still having some bite to them rather than being cooked to a mush.

I accompanied the food with an excellent glass of House Montepulciano at £6.95 for 175ml. Tuscan Sausage was also my partner’s choice but this time in a burger which contained smoked cheese, crispy pancetta, salad leaves and  a side of roast potatoes and spicy sauce. This came in at £10.95. As the dish was rather large the bun was stripped of its contents and unfortunately had to be left, but the sausage etc. was said to be very good; so good in fact that I wasn’t offered a taste!  I was told, however, that I was welcome to the bun. Cheers mate. With no room left for dessert we decided to bid arrivederci to Livin’Italy and made our way back to the station.

It is always a gamble returning to somewhere you knew and loved after all this time, but it was far from disappointing in this instance. The only disappointing part is that I can no longer afford to live in this, now salubrious, part of town with its huge range of facilities. On second thoughts, I am probably getting a bit long in the tooth for la dolce vita.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 11th October, 2018

Mill Kitchen

Farsley in the late 1970s when I lived there was hardly the most alluring suburb of the City, possibly because I lived there.

It had all of the disadvantages of a village, i.e. shops which closed at lunchtime on Saturday and no nightlife except for a couple of pubs, a decent chippy and a Chinese take-away. It was losing its identity as the conurbations of Leeds and Bradford were expanding, thus absorbing small communities such as this and turning them into commuter belt. Most buses missed the place out altogether by using the B6157 Stanningley Road extension or Rodley Lane.  The only way you could visit the village was if you made a special journey, but few did.How times change! Farsley has become cool. There are several wine bars, restaurants of various origins and delis, but the decent pubs and shops have been retained, although sadly not the chippy. Even the Leeds – Halifax bus route has diverted to take in the views.  Sunny Bank Mills has had a great deal of money spent on it and been turned into work units for small businesses, an art gallery, studios and the place I had made a not so sentimental journey to see, Mill Kitchen.

All photographs by Stan Graham

I review eateries of all sorts in most parts of Leeds, and I must say that this ranks amongst the best. It is not fine dining and it does not have the most expansive menu, but what it does it does well.  The lunch menu consists of the daily savoury bake, and three salads. There is a larger choice for breakfast/brunch as well as a range of sandwiches and a soup. I was here to sample lunch so I had the daily bake which on the day was Feta and Tomato Fritatta. It costs £7.75 and comes with three portions of the salads on display which also vary depending on the ingredients available. A large portion of salad for a main course is £6.75. The choice of the day was between Kale, apple, hazelnut and feta, Fennel, orange and goat’s cheese; and Pattypan squash, quinoa and seeds. I ordered a black Americano (£2.20) to drink as it was a tad early to hit the booze, although there is a good selection of craft ale and wine should you be so inclined.

A lovely touch was the acknowledgement of the building’s wool processing heritage by giving diners a large wooden bobbin with a number attached as identification for the waiting staff when serving your dish.  It was a Saturday and the inside of the deli was full of brunchers and families so I decided to brave the wind and sit outside. When the food arrived it was just as spectacular as the building.  It was delivered to my table as I had been asked on ordering whether I would prefer the frittata hot or cold, a nice touch, and as I opted for the former, it took a little time to heat.

The portion size was of Yorkshire proportions with the plate full of goodies. The frittata was wonderfully light, even though it was a thick piece, and the salads inventive and complimentary. There was enough of each to experiment with the flavours by mixing them up a bit. I enjoyed every mouthful.  I gave dessert a miss as the cloud cover increased and I didn’t fancy a soggy bun, or bum. I must, once again, praise the service, which was excellent and very friendly.Should you not wish to have anything to eat there is a deli counter selling produce as well as Leeds Bread Cooperative loaves, not to mention the craft beers and wine. I told you not to mention the craft beers and wine – sorry.

If you find yourself in this now trendy suburb then you could do worse than call here for sustenance. There most certainly is no trouble at t’mill.

Article first published by Leeds Living 2nd August, 2018

North Star Coffee House

I must admit that I was not looking forward to doing this particular article as it was the end of the last working week before Christmas and the City Centre was awash with workers in their posh frocks subtly accessorised with Santa hats or flashing reindeer antlers.

The women were not much more sophisticated either. This is great if you are among their number but as a sole diner it instigates a feeling of isolation and you know that the service at whichever restaurant you choose will be stretched wafer thin and, likely as not, there will be a special ‘festive’ menu, meaning that turkey and all the trimmings will be churned out ad nauseam but if you dare opt for the ‘normal’ menu you will be waiting all afternoon. All right, I am exaggerating a bit, but my main concern is that it would not be fair to judge an establishment which is rammed with partygoers against one visited in early February when you walk into the soundtrack of your own footsteps.

As it happens, the editor of Leeds Living had suggested that I venture a little way out of the City Centre for once and try out North Star Coffee House so I forsook the jollity of the revellers for a stroll along the river bank to Leeds Dock. Should you be a visitor to Leeds I must point out that there is a free water taxi to Leeds Dock from outside the new South Entrance to City Station. The editor is so tight with expenses that he won’t even spring for a free water taxi which is why I had to hoof it. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I refuse to pay for my own free trip when I am on an assignment for someone else.

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When I arrived at Leeds Dock I was relieved to discover that life was going on much as normal so I headed for North Star Coffee House, which is a cafe and shop adjoining a coffee roasters. I was also pleased to see that there was a special lunch menu offering a choice of sandwiches and bowls, all of which were imaginative, but I decided on a bowl of the soup of the day with half a toasted sandwich, £6.50. The soup of the day was parsnip, which was just the ticket on a chilly day after a stroll. The sandwich was toasted cheese. The combination could have been a bit bland but this version was far from being that. The soup was rich and creamy with a drizzle of tarragon oil lifting it from the very good to the sublime. Likewise the sandwich was prepared with thinner sliced bread, allowing the heat to permeate through to the cheese, rather than insulate it as a thick slice would have done. This resulted in the perfect combination of properly toasted bread at one with the soft, hot, runny cheese within. Both parts of the lunch went to show how good quality simple ingredients, given a bit of care and a lot of skill, can give a result far in excess of the sum of its parts.

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I would not have countenanced leaving without sampling the coffee on offer. After all, it had made the long journey from the roasters, though the glass partition, to the coffee machine. Like the soup and other dishes in the cafe, the coffee varies according to the season and my black coffee was a delight, not too strong but with a fairly complex flavour, a bargain at £2.30. As it was Christmas I thought that I should give a nod to that fact so I accompanied the coffee with a Cranberry Apple Crumble Bar, £3.00, from the Noisette Bakehouse Bakery. It was very flavoursome but a tad dry for my taste, although I do realise that it is a crumble.

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The premises are cool and modern but very relaxed and the service exemplary. This is a perfect place to unwind from work for a little while, or just chill from a visit to the docks or the Royal Armouries next door.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the Leeds City Centre revellers for driving me out of town to a gem in Leeds Dock. I hope that you all had as good a time as I did, albeit a bit rowdier.

May I take this opportunity to wish my readers a very Happy Christmas and please join me for lunch in the New Year when who knows what gems, and duffers, we may discover.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 20th December, 2017

The Union

Please note. Closed for refurbishment but is reopening. Please keep checking social media for opening date.

http://theunioncoffeehouse.co.uk/

Writing articles for publication is like talking to yourself but through a loudspeaker. In the absence of any feedback you just have to imagine who, if anyone, is reading the stuff you churn out and how you can make it relevant to them. In my case I assume that my readership mainly comprises city centre workers and visitors to our wonderful metropolis. Even within these two categories there is a broad spectrum of people. The heart of Leeds is kept beating by people who do all manner of jobs, from keeping the City clean and tidy to running multinational companies. Similarly the visitors come here for all kinds of reasons; shopping, be it a splurge at Harvey Nicks or getting a new mobile phone cover from the market, culture at the museums and art galleries or just a day out wandering to where fancy takes.

I must admit that I never imagined my typical reader to be someone who is having lunch in a coffee house to kill time before they have the pot removed from their broken wrist. This was the case this week when I visited Union Coffee House in Great George Street. The premises are opposite the old entrance to the Leeds General Infirmary and the lady sitting opposite had called in for that very purpose.

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The menu is original and I was sorely tempted to try the Olive and Rye Breakfast from the brunch section as it contained crispy pork belly, home made black pudding, chorizo beans, grilled tomato, free range eggs and sourdough toast but my good post-Christmas intentions prevailed and I opted for the hot venison scotch egg with home made brown sauce and dressed green bean salad at £6.50. My self-control wasn’t total as I augmented the dish with a side of skinny chips for £2.00. A glass of pinot noir lubricated the food at £6.00 (175ml). I love venison; it has a wonderful flavour and has far less fat than other red meat. If you think that I am going to say that the only problem is that it is dear (deer – geddit?) then you would be correct, I never let a bad joke slip by. The lower fat content means that the texture of the mince used to make the scotch egg is denser than it would have been had pork been used and this made it far more interesting. The yolk of the egg was perfectly cooked, being soft but just beyond runny. The taste was excellent as was that of the brown sauce, which came in a small jar. The spices gave the sauce not only a tang but also a rounded finish. I enjoyed it so much that I was given a small ‘doggy tub’ to use on my Sunday morning bacon butty. The salad, as the name would suggest, contained green beans along with chopped spring onions, rocket, red lettuce and lamb’s lettuce. The french dressing was exquisite. I have not enjoyed a lunch so much in a while. Because of the quality of the main course and the tempting appearance of the sweet counter, I threw my good intentions right out of the window and decided to put the one remaining piece of carrot cake out of its misery along with a black coffee at £2.30. The pride in the food and the level of service manifested itself when the waiter brought me the cake. He said that, as it was the last piece, it was a little less fresh than he would have liked it to be so he said that I could choose an alternative or have the carrot cake on the house. In the interest of the coffers of Leeds Living I opted for the latter, hence no price is shown in the review as there was nothing on the bill. If this is a cake approaching its sell by date it must have been amazing on the day it was baked. It was only a smidgeon on the dry side but still as good, if not better than I have had in other establishments when fresh. All in all this is a brilliant place to have lunch. I now know another great place to eat but in the interest of my readers I am compelled to try somewhere else next time. I will console myself in the knowledge that, had I revisited a past favourite, I would not have found this new one.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 9th February, 2017

Olive and Rye

https://www.oliveandrye.co.uk/

Writing lunch reviews is a really great job except that, with all lines of work, you come across situations which make you wish that you did something else.

Over the past couple of years or so I have been lucky in that I have only had to send one meal back because it was inedible and only had a single case of atrocious service. This is not the problem with the occupation; the real downside is that whenever I go into Leeds for lunch I feel as though I have to try somewhere different in order to write an article which means that I never get a chance to go back to some of the amazing places I have discovered. This week none of that mattered as I was asked to visit an establishment which was as good as any I have previously enjoyed. Olive and Rye is one of the wonderful independent deli restaurants in our great City, a lot of which are springing up in the various arcades, and this one is in Queens.

The menu is original and I was sorely tempted to try the Olive and Rye Breakfast from the brunch section as it contained crispy pork belly, home made black pudding, chorizo beans, grilled tomato, free range eggs and sourdough toast but my good post-Christmas intentions prevailed and I opted for the hot venison scotch egg with home made brown sauce and dressed green bean salad at £6.50. My self-control wasn’t total as I augmented the dish with a side of skinny chips for £2.00. A glass of pinot noir lubricated the food at £6.00 (175ml).

I love venison; it has a wonderful flavour and has far less fat than other red meat. If you think that I am going to say that the only problem is that it is dear (deer – geddit?) then you would be correct, I never let a bad joke slip by. The lower fat content means that the texture of the mince used to make the scotch egg is denser than it would have been had pork been used and this made it far more interesting. The yolk of the egg was perfectly cooked, being soft but just beyond runny. The taste was excellent as was that of the brown sauce, which came in a small jar. The spices gave the sauce not only a tang but also a rounded finish. I enjoyed it so much that I was given a small ‘doggy tub’ to use on my Sunday morning bacon butty. The salad, as the name would suggest, contained green beans along with chopped spring onions, rocket, red lettuce and lamb’s lettuce. The french dressing was exquisite.

I have not enjoyed a lunch so much in a while. Because of the quality of the main course and the tempting appearance of the sweet counter, I threw my good intentions right out of the window and decided to put the one remaining piece of carrot cake out of its misery along with a black coffee at £2.30. The pride in the food and the level of service manifested itself when the waiter brought me the cake. He said that, as it was the last piece, it was a little less fresh than he would have liked it to be so he said that I could choose an alternative or have the carrot cake on the house. In the interest of the coffers of Leeds Living I opted for the latter, hence no price is shown in the review as there was nothing on the bill. If this is a cake approaching its sell by date it must have been amazing on the day it was baked. It was only a smidgeon on the dry side but still as good, if not better than I have had in other establishments when fresh.

All in all this is a brilliant place to have lunch. I now know another great place to eat but in the interest of my readers I am compelled to try somewhere else next time. I will console myself in the knowledge that, had I revisited a past favourite, I would not have found this new one.

Article first published in Leeds Living on 26th January, 2017

Harvey Nichols

https://www.harveynichols.com/restaurant/leeds-dining/espresso-bar/

The Espresso Bar in the Arcade is temporarily closed

I went to a wedding last Saturday where I met up with some old colleagues from the auction house where I worked up until last September. None of them has seen me since then and in the interim I have grown a beard. For some reason, probably age, it has turned out to be white. One of the chaps who works in the sale room at the auction house and a really nice chap, if not the sharpest chisel in the toolbox, came up to me and said that he really liked the beard. He said that I reminded him of someone but he couldn’t just put his finger on who it was but it would come to him. A couple of hours and several drinks later, he came running up to me and said ‘Stan, I have just realised who you remind me of… Sean Connery.’ Being compared with an 84 year old would normally elicit a few choice words, but Sean Connery, well…… Now this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this week’s review but I just had to tell someone. Should there be an Honor Blackman or Ursula Andress double out there then you know where I am.So to work. The Espresso Bar, Harvey Nichols is situated outside of the main store in the County Arcade, part of the Victoria Quarter. This means that it is a great place for people-watching, and for people to watch you. Although it is undercover there are plenty of patio heaters for the colder weather so this is all year round al fresco. The menu concentrates on lighter dishes, sandwiches and cakes which makes it perfect for a lunch. I was shown to my table by a very pleasant waitress, given a menu and left to peruse it. The first thing which struck me was the professionalism of the staff: at no time did I feel rushed but whenever I looked up there was always one who was ready to make eye contact and come over to see what I wanted. There is nothing worse than sitting at your table and trying to attract the attention of waiting staff who look everywhere except where you are. It is bad enough when you have finished and just want your bill, but if you need some condiments or cutlery and your meal is getting cold it is extremely annoying.

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I decided on the Ceasar Salad at £8.50 and added the optional chicken breast for £2.00. The alternative was smoked salmon at £2.50 extra. I accompanied this with a glass of Harvey Nichols Rouge, Corbieres at £4.95 for 175ml. Caesar Salad is a fairly simple dish: lettuce, Parmesan cheese, croutons, anchovies and a creamy dressing. The problem with simple dishes is that there are no fancy sauces to cover up any inferior ingredients so everything has to be fresh and tasty. Traditionally the lettuce is cos but here they used baby gem which has a more intense flavour and also looks better being greener than cos whose leaves border on white. The Parmesan was fresh and shaved into thicker than normal pieces, absolutely delicious. The croutons were small and hard which suggested that they came out of a packet but were all right. The real let down was the dressing which had very little taste. This could not be said about the anchovies. Like the lettuce, they were a little different from normal. Usually you get a couple of small brown strips which only serve to give the salad a salty taste. Here they were identifiable as being small, silver fish and had been slightly pickled and turned into flavour bombs. The pickle or soused flavour contrasted perfectly with the creaminess of the sauce and cheese. They also had a fishy aftertaste which is a novelty for Caesar salad anchovies. I was also pleasantly surprised by the size of the portion, which was generous, especially when it came to the more expensive components like the Parmesan. A common trick is to load the dish with lettuce leaves so that there looks to be a lot; no such sleight of hand here; the proportions were perfect. The chicken was also plentiful, moist and tender.

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I would not have been doing my job had I not had dessert so I asked for the menu again and, as I seemed to be torn between the options, the waitress said that her favourite was white chocolate and raspberry layer cake (£4.50). I took her advice and also asked for a black Americano coffee at £3.00 for the large size. The regular is £2.80 so it was a no brainer. The cake was just a little on the dry side, but not by much. The chocolate was wonderful and the raspberries fresh and moist, a great way to burst through your daily calorie intake limit. One thing worth noting is that there is a 10% service charge automatically added to the bill but it is optional and can be removed. I normally do not approve of this practice but it is made very clear on the menu and the bill that this is the case and the service is just so good they deserve even more. Looking back I cannot think of a better place to have played out my James Bond fantasy except that it has just occurred to me that my ex-colleague probably thinks that Sean Connery is the actor who plays Uncle Albert in ‘Only Fools and Horses’. Still, just for a day or two I was 007. Pay the bill Miss Moneypenny.

Article first published by Leeds Living on 17th July,2015