Opposite is a chain of three coffee shops in Leeds. The original Opposite (opposite Leeds University, hence the name) is 10 years old, while the third, out in Chapel Allerton, opened just over a year ago. This, the second Opposite, opened five years ago, under the soaring stained-glass arcades of the Victoria Quarter shopping centre in the heart of Leeds.
The Victoria Quarter branch is an interesting hybrid. It’s a kiosk, and feels like it should be a takeaway spot, but it’s got seating. However, despite the soaring glass ceiling, it’s not exactly the same as sitting inside, which I discovered on a freezing day in February where it was about as a warm as sitting out on the street… That said, it is an absolutely magnificent setting and well worth visiting. Just remember to wrap up warm. Or go in the summer.
Despite its small size, the Victoria Quarter Opposite packs a lot in, including a full range of espresso-based drinks, along with filter options (all from London’s Square Mile). There’s also a decent range of food, including sandwiches and cakes. The only downside is that all the drinks are served in takeaway cups…
January 2017: Sadly I have learnt that Opposite’s Victoria Quarter branch has had to close. It will be sadly missed.
One of two outlets for La Bottega Milanese in Leeds, the branch in the Light pre-dates the recently-opened branch in Bond Court. Naturally, this being the Coffee Spot, I visited them in reverse order, first calling into Bond Court before venturing to The Light (which is a shopping and retail centre built around the old headquarters building of the Leeds Permanent Building Society).
The Light itself is a wonderful structure, of soaring brick facades and glass ceilings. La Bottega Milanese occupies a corner spot on the ground floor, just by the escalators up to the cinema. You can sit “outside” on the street without having to worry about being rained on, since it’s all enclosed by a glass ceiling.
If you’ve read my piece on Bond Court, you’ll already be familiar with La Bottega Milanese’s offering. If not, La Bottega Milanese expertly blends Italian espresso tradition with modern, third-wave roasting know-how from Grumpy Mule. The food’s pretty decent too: in the morning, pastries and other breakfast goodies, replaced at lunch by sandwiches and salads, which in turn give way to cake in the afternoon. Finally, come evening, there are small plates, tapas and beer/wine. Truly a café for all occasions!
Leeds’ much-loved Laynes Espresso, down by the station, has a second outlet, perhaps best described as a pop-up concession (although it’s permanent) on the ground floor of the sprawling Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen. Occupying a simple counter at the back of the main room, at first sight there’s not a lot to Laynes Espresso, just the espresso machine, some cake and a bar with three stools. There’s no pour-over filter and none of the food (not even toast!) that you’ll find at Laynes HQ.
However, scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Since Laynes is part of Belgrave Music Hall, you can take your coffee and sit anywhere you like, including the roof terrace. You want food? There’s burgers (Patty Smiths) and pizza (Dough Boys). There’s even a bar… And, once a month, Laynes takes the place over for Sunday brunch!
Today’s Saturday Supplement is another in the occasional Meet the Roaster series. Today we’re in Leeds, at North Star Micro Roasters, who have been going for just over a year now. I went to see Krag and Ellis, the guys behind North Star, back in the summer as part of my Coffee Spot tour of Leeds.
Roasting with a 5 kg Toper in an industrial estate just north of Leeds, North Star is that city’s first micro-roaster, which is a quite a surprise considering the strong coffee scene in the city and in the nearby Harrogate and York, which, together with Leeds, make up the Yorkshire Coffee Triangle. There’s also a strong roasting presence with the likes of Holmfirth’s Grumpy Mule, while in Harrogate, Falcon Speciality is one of the country’s leading green bean importers.
However, Leeds’ wait for a speciality coffee roaster to call its very own ended last October when North Star started production. There are two espresso blends, the seasonal Czar Street, which changes three to four times a year, and the Dark Arches blend. Added to this are around eight single-origins, roasted primarily for filter, but with some roasted for espresso.
Bringing the best of Milanese espresso bar culture to Leeds might be one way of describing La Bottega Milanese. However you care to describe it though, there’s a distinctly modern, Italian feel to the new branch of La Bottega Milanese on Bond Court, which I was fortunate enough to visit back in June, a few weeks after it opened.
Compared to the intimate charm of, say, Laynes Espresso, or the brick-and-wood grandeur of Mrs Atha’s, La Bottega Milanese is a different kettle of fish entirely. It also doesn’t have a basement! On the other hand, few can boast a 26-seat communal table, which is clearly the pride and joy of owner, Alex, nor do they have the generous outside seating that Bond Court affords La Bottega Milanese.
La Bottega Milanese blends Italian espresso tradition with modern, third-wave roasting know-how to produce a really lovely cup of coffee courtesy of local roasters, Grumpy Mule. The food’s pretty decent too: in the morning, pastries and other breakfast goodies, replaced at lunch by sandwiches and salads, which in turn give way to cake in the afternoon. Finally, come evening, there are small plates, tapas and beer/wine. Truly a café for all occasions!
The original Laynes Espresso, which has been serving fine Square Mile coffee to the folks of Leeds since 2011, has a great location for the traveller: just around the corner from Leeds Station. It’s sufficiently close that if you have any sort of wait between trains, you can nip out for a quick coffee.
It’s a small spot, the upstairs being dominated by the counter, with a couple of tables opposite and a bar in the window. A small basement doubles the available eating, but even so I doubt you could squeeze more than about 20 people in, with maybe another four outside. For more space, try Laynes’ concession in Belgrave Music Hall.
I visited twice, both times for breakfast, since it was just as conveniently located for my hotel as for the station and has the advantage of being open from seven o’clock in the morning. As well as a small breakfast menu (there was toast; therefore I was happy) there are sandwiches from 12 o’clock and an abundance of cake all day long.
For such a small place, there’s an excellent coffee menu, with espresso being supplemented with pour-over filter and a selection of loose-leaf plus Yorkshire Tea.
January 2017: Laynes Espresso now has a new extension which has significantly increased the seating available.
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.
Out in Chapel Allerton, in the leafy suburbs north of Leeds city centre, is the third of the eclectic local chain known as Opposite. The original Opposite (opposite Leeds University, hence the name) is nearly 10 years old, while the second (now closed), under the soaring stained-glass arcades of the Victoria Quarter shopping centre, opened five years ago. They were joined last year by the Chapel Allerton branch, which opened under the name “Cup & Saucer”. However, about a week after my visit, it was due to be re-branded as “Opposite Chapel Allerton”.
Several people in the Leeds coffee scene told me that it was their favourite spot, and I can see why. Just off the busy Harrogate Road, in a parade of local shops and restaurants (which includes a large Caffe Nero), it’s a lovely little spot, exuding charm all the way from the big windows at the front to the massive chalk drawing on the back wall.
Sandwiched between window and wall is some excellent food, a great range of cake and some wonderful coffee from London’s Square Mile, plus regular guests. There’s a fairly standard espresso menu plus single-origin pour-over through V60 or Aeropress. It’s well worth a detour!