But as is so often the case, the places that are highlighted, are usually evening ‘go to’ places. And I very rarely go out in the evening just for pleasure.
To be honest, I very rarely go out at all just for pleasure. However, I have an ace card up my sleeve. I work freelance.
One of the many perks of being freelance is that you can, legitimately, meet up in a cafe, restaurant or pub if you so wish, and although there are many working rent-a-desk hubs around, they are not really conducive to people like me who do not need to be office bound. Who am I trying to kid? That’s really just an excuse.
The real reason I love meeting up in a cafe during the day, is the food, the coffee, and the people. Daytime rendezvous have a completely different essence about them. They ooze leisure, and yet people are working. There is an overly large proportion of people with small children, or those who have jumped off the rat-race due to retirement. There is always a smattering of people with their parents, then, stuck in the middle, is people like me.
So, where do I go? Well, to be honest, it all depends on what I have to do and what time of day it is. For example, if I have something to write up, which I usually do in the mornings, I come to Waitrose cafe (Meanwood). Which is where I am now. The tea is served in the most wonderful cup and saucer affair, the staff, who all own a share in the company, are always welcoming and the food is fresh, uncomplicated, and delicious. They do snacks, sandwiches, breakfast, full meals and cakes. And here’s a little secret, if you sign up for a Waitrose card, you can get a free, yes FREE, takeaway tea or coffee, every single day. If you sit in the cafe you also need to buy something to eat, but the cakes are extremely delectable and there is a great variety to choose from.
If I’m wanting something healthy, nutritious and moreish, I will meet people at my new favourite haunt, Crust and Crumb in Chapel Allerton. This is a very small, independent cafe which also sells artisan oils, breads and spreads. Once again they are extremely friendly, and do the most wonderful salads imaginable. Not your green leaf and cherry tomato affair though. Oh no. The plate is always filled with a little bit of grains salad, pasta salad, bean salad, vegetable salad, whatever they have going on that day, then you order a food that goes with all the salads. I particularly enjoy the goats cheese or the haloumi, but they also do meats and fish. Here, too, the cakes are quite spectacular, although more artisan, by which I mean they do things like Pan de Figo (a Spanish fig and nut combo) which is absolutely delightful, and makes you feel very healthily self righteous.
Recently though, I have discovered a lovely place up in Oakwood called Mediterranean Grill, or Soosi Restaurant. This is pure Levantine food. Hummus, Baba Ganoosh, Kebabs - but not those ridiculous ‘late night too much to drink’ kebabs. These are cooked to order, with the most glorious tasting rice, fluffy and light, and a secret spice mix that you are given to shake over your meat and rice - if you wish - which adds a certain je ne sais quoi. The tea is also very plentiful. I like the Persian tea, which they are very happy to top up with hot water, so you never get that cooling over stewed stuff. But what I love best about this place, is the other diners. Everyone who is in there talks, laughs and eats together with a relaxation that is rare in so many places. Which, in turn, allows you to relax. In my mind that always makes food taste better.
And then there are a couple of take aways secrets you might like to know. Firstly, if you want the best samosas, pakoras, puri’s etc. you need to get yourself to Bobby’s on Roundhay Road. I promise you, you will not look back. Not only is the food wonderful, the owner very welcoming, but everything is done by weight and boxed, which I love. However, if you’re fancying something simple, warm, filling and quick, Drakes Chip Shop opposite Scott Hall Sports Centre is where I’d go. The chips are fantastic. Just as chip shop chips should be. Fat, slightly crispy and always hot. Nothing better after a swim. Or just if you’re passing…
Written by Claire Irving. Want to read more? Then go to www.beingnigella.wordpress.com
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