On the pedestrianised Central Road, located, appropriately enough, right in the centre of Leeds, is the delightful Mrs Atha’s, perhaps one of the most complete coffee shops I’ve been to in ages. With a lovely interior, cosy little basement and small outside seating area, there’s plenty of seating options.
The coffee is provided by stalwarts Has Bean, with a house-blend, the charmingly-named “Mrs Atha’s Little Tipple”, on espresso and a single-origin on filter. There’s also a selection of single-origin filters from regularly-rotating guest roasters, quite often from Europe. Typically, I arrived the day before Mrs Atha’s new espresso machine, a Slayer no less, was due to be installed! Tea drinkers are also well catered for, with a wide selection of loose-leaf tea from Postcard Teas.
As good as the coffee (and tea) is, Mrs Atha’s is just as much about food, with a comprehensive all-day breakfast menu complimenting lunch and a selection of (very) specials, all of which are prepared in the basement kitchen. Add to that a wide range of extremely tempting cakes and you can’t really go wrong.
There is, by the way, a Mrs Atha: she’s the grandmother of the three brothers who own Mrs Atha’s.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Mrs Atha’s exterior gives few hints of the delights awaiting you inside. Occupying a fairly narrow store-front, its small outside seating area, separated from the pavement by low barriers, is just wide enough for three two-person tables. Stepping inside, you realise that, although it’s narrow, Mrs Atha’s goes a long way back… And down too.
The counter’s to your right, cakes to the fore, which how it should be. You order here before making your way to your table. Next comes the espresso machine, which, by the time you read this, should be a shiny new Slayer. To your left, stairs lead to the basement, or, if you can carry on past the Slayer, along the narrow gap between counter and stairs, you reach the main seating area at the back.
Mrs Atha’s is one of the most beautifully-appointed coffee shops I’ve seen in a long while and this is its most beautifully-appointed part. Although narrow, the high ceilings give a sense of space. The walls, a mix of bare brick and plain whitewash, compete with the wooden floorboards for your admiration. Padded benches line the walls, facing, on the left, square, two-person tables, and, on the right, longer, communal tables. At the back are two more tables, plus a window which helps compensate for the lack of natural light from the comparatively small windows at the front. There’s also a gorgeous fireplace.
Regular readers know my love of good basements. At Mrs Atha’s you share the basement with the open-plan kitchen, which makes it quite hot and noisy. At about a third of the length of upstairs, it’s also a little cramped, with a tinned ceiling, gorgeously-tiled walls and wooden floorboards.
At the bottom of the stairs is a mirror and, on a slightly raised platform, a table with three chairs. At the opposite end is the kitchen, a narrow communal table in front of it with chairs and stools. Two tables sit on the right at bottom of stairs, while there is a little bar (two stools) and low table against the other wall.
I’d come to Mrs Atha’s for lunch and selected the interestingly-named “surprisingly fine vegetarian sausage sandwich” from the all-day breakfast menu. It was, as advertised, very fine, although not, I must confess, surprising in its fineness since I’d already been forewarned by all and sundry that Mrs Atha’s food was excellent. Made with soft, chewy bread, embracing hot (and tasty) veggie sausages and topped with lashings of brown sauce (other sauces are available on request), it went down a treat!
Mrs Atha’s also has an excellent range of coffee, with an emphasis on filter. I had the Toarco Jaya, a washed bean from Sulawesi, one of three options from guest roaster, Berlin’s, The Barn. This arrived in a wood-neck Chemex filter with a small black cup on a wooden tray. It was very smooth and already quite cool by the time it got to me, presenting nothing too challenging for my palette.
I paired this with the spicy ginger cake, which was surprisingly spicy, despite my being forewarned by the name. It was also very gingery and not too sweet. Quite a dense (but very moist) cake, with a great texture and a little bit of ginger after-kick, it was both delicious and filling!
|CENTRAL ROAD • LEEDS • LS1 6DE|
|Monday||09:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Bar, Tables outside|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 18:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Cake|
|Wednesday||08:00 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Thursday||09:00 – 18:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Friday||09:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Saturday||09:00 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Sunday||10:00 – 17:00||Mobile||3G, Voice|
|Chain||No||Visits||19th June 2014|
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