DEPARTMENT store cafes are often a quick, cheap option for hungry shoppers on a budget.
But it’s worth taking your time at the Debenhams Cafe in Leeds city centre, where the excellent food, quick service and panoramic views help to make it one of the best department store eateries in town.
Located on the top floor of the store on Briggate, the cafe is tucked in amongst the suitcases, bed linen and kitchen products - and with several escalators to get there, you might expect it to be more of a quiet haven.
But it seems the shoppers of Leeds know all about the Debenhams cafe, as when we paid our visit, the place was packed and the queues were stretching well beyond the entrance.
Ok, it was a Saturday, but having sampled the food ourselves, we can understand why customers are prepared to wait in line and will make that special trip to the top floor cafe.
The restaurant is fairly big, with tables and chairs crammed into all the nooks and crannies, meaning there were literally hundreds of people enjoying their lunch at the time we visited.
And with two canteen-style counters either side of the entrance – one offering hot dishes like fish and chips, sausage and mash and lasagne, and the other boasting a range of cakes along with hot and cold sandwiches – there were many more queuing up and waiting.
After five minutes of standing still, we followed the example of many other diners, with one of us standing in line and placing the order while the other found a table – something I remember doing regularly with my parents as a child.
I squeezed through the crowded and warm restaurant, filled with noisy diners, and managed to find a small booth by the back wall. When my dining partner came over, she brought with her a buzzer, which would flash to alert us when our orders were ready. Considering the amount of people in the cafe, it wasn’t actually that long until the buzzer sprang to life and my friend went to collect our meals – I would say no more than five minutes.
We ordered two warm ciabattas, one with goats’ cheese and caramelised onion and one with brie, cranberry and bacon, and shared them both. With a pot of tea, a cup of coffee and a triple chocolate muffin, the total bill came to £15.93, which is not bad for two people – especially considering how nice it was.
It was hard to choose which ciabatta was the best, as both were perfectly warmed through; both the goats cheese and the brie were melted and full of flavour; while even the bacon, a meat which can sometimes be too fatty and easily overdone, was perfect.
The amount of cranberry sauce and caramelised onions included was just right, with neither taking away the flavour from the cheese or meat components.
All in all, considering how busy the restaurant was, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food – it would be easy to half-heartedly rush the dishes out, but if they did, they probably wouldn’t have the endless queues of people lining up.
Another highlight of the cafe is the panoramic views offered over Leeds city centre, and you could easily spend a couple of pleasant hours nursing a coffee and gazing at the rooftops.
Even the muffin was delicious – so it’s a top score for the top floor from Little Oliver.