I can see why fellow-blogger Matt (aka The Gladieater) likes Leyas so much. It’s a delightful spot on Camden High Street, within sight of the famous Mornington Crescent tube station. It has an interesting layout, with a split level. This could be a nightmare, but Leyas has used this to great effect: there’s a small group of tables on street level as you come in, then steps lead up to the counter and down to a lovely basement. It reminds me of a smaller, cosier version of the Boston Tea Party on Bristol’s Whiteladies Road.
Leyas regularly rotates its roasters, with a different option on espresso, pour-over (V60) and decaf. Sometimes they are all from the same roaster, and at other times it’s a different roaster for each. While I was there in November, Alchemy was doing the honours on espresso, Nude on pour-over and Square Mile on decaf. On my return in June it was Mission Coffee Works and now it’s the turn of Assembly.
However, Leyas isn’t just coffee. There’s an impressive selection of cakes, a massive range of sandwiches and salads, plus extensive breakfast and lunch menus, the food all made in the kitchen at the back.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Leyas competes for your attention on a crowded Camden High Street. Surrounded by chains, and with a Pret next door, you should ignore the charms (or otherwise) of the competition and make a bee-line for Leyas.
Stepping inside, it’s clear that you’ve reached somewhere special. A short flight of steps on the right leads up (with a helpful sign pointing that way, saying “order”), while in the centre, another heads down (the sign helpfully saying “seating”). To your left, a small seating area has a three-person window table and a four-person table against the left-hand wall. Although sitting here’s good for people-watching, you’ll be constantly disturbed by customers coming and going, as well as baristas popping downstairs with people’s orders.
Start upstairs, where you’ll find a large, wooden-clad serving/ordering area. An L-shaped counter occupies the left-hand and back walls. To the left, cake and sandwiches run in parallel rows, while at the back, on the right, a big chiller-cabinet holds the food. The right-hand wall has racks of coffee-making kit and beans for sale. The whole area is cleverly laid-out, with plenty of room to order (and queue when it’s busy) and, if you can’t stay, to wait for your coffee.
Having ordered, head downstairs to find a seat; your coffee will follow when it’s ready (although don’t make my mistake and forget to take a bottle of water and a glass from the water-station at the end of the counter).
Downstairs is Leyas at its best: a fabulous, spacious basement with multiple seating options. At the back, there’s a lovely pair of armchairs on the right and, opposite them, a matching pair of sofas. Between them and the stairs are three rows of tables. Against the left- and right-hand walls are a mix of two- and four-person tables, while the centre holds a six-person communal table. These are a mix-and-match of various styles, although all are wooden and have been recycled/re-used.
The basement also doubles as an art gallery, with a different exhibition every month. Take a look at the Saturday Supplement I wrote for the current exhibition.
On my visit last year, I had Alchemy’s Elixir blend on espresso. Three years ago, I’d have pulled faces at it, but now I’m thinking “hmm, that’s quite nice”. It was distinctly fruity without being too sharp and improved on the third mouthful, when it was much more rounded. I paired it with a slice of chocolate mandarin cake, a moist cake, subtly flavoured with citrus and generously punctuated by dollops of chocolate.
On my return, a shameful seven months later, I had a Nkora single-origin from Rwanda, roasted by Mission Coffee Works. This was an outstanding espresso, very well-balanced, fruity, with a nice acidic kick and just a hint of bitterness. I paired this with an apple and cinnamon muffin, with real chunks of apple and a crunchy, cinnamon-sugared top. This approached the gold-standard of muffins, still set by Foxcroft & Ginger.
Both of my espressos arrived with a glass of water, a little touch I appreciate. I should also give a quick mention to the cups, which are from ACME (makers of the Coffee Spot Cup). My twin regrets are that it’s taken me so long to visit/write up Leyas and that I’ve yet to try the lovely-looking food!
December 2015: Leyas was a runner up for the 2015 Coffee Spot with the Best Basement Award.
|20 CAMDEN HIGH STREET • LONDON • NW1 0JH|
|Monday||07:30 – 18:00||Roaster||Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Sofas, Comfy Chairs|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 18:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Brunch, Cake|
|Thursday||07:30 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 18:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||09:00 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||Local||Visits||10th November 2014, 30th June 2015|
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