THE streets of Leeds are peppered with unremarkable coffee shops who seem to do everything – lattes, cakes, sandwiches, toasties, fruit salads, cookies – reasonably well.
But Laynes is outstanding because their starting point is the coffee and everything else is ancillary. Crucially, they do absolutely first rate teas and coffee (Ethipioan Yirgacheffe, no less) and just handful of other things really well.
It’s a smart but compact unit on the road leading from the main shopping precinct up to Leeds train station. It’s also simple, with just a few sandwiches and a few pastries in a glass cabinet. Cold drinks come in the form of a small chiller with water and juices, but the emphasis here is all on flat whites, espressos and capuccinos.
It’s a very tasteful joint and they take a lot of care with the presentation and delivery of the product. We dropped in for a olive paste and aubergine sandwich with rocket at a very reasonable £2.80. A fruit knot (virtually a currant tea cake) at £1.10 and a flat white coffee at £2.
It was heartening to have the guy behind the counter not only offer to toast the sandwich but carefully remove and replace the rocket leaves before and after doing so. It all came beautifully presented on a little wooden tray, with the fruit knot accompanied by an espresso cup filled with cinnamon flavoured butter. Delicious.
Then there was the coffee. Oh, the coffee! Laynes’ coffee is superb, some of the best you’ll sample in Leeds. My flat white came at just the right temperature (just on the cusp of very warm and hot) while the consistency was the perfect pitch of creaminess – not too watery, nor too frothy. There wasn’t a bubble in sight, let me tell you.
The whole experience was a joy, every element was just a little bit special – the sandwich was surprisingly good – and there’s an obvious enthusiasm invested in the product.
New Station Street is also a surprisingly nifty place to people watch. Ok, this shouldn’t be too big a surprise since it does sit on the main road to the train station, but only now, with something of a regeneration going on in the neighbourhood, is it starting to become somewhere you could feasibly hang out in.
With that in mind they really need more benches and chairs for people to use because, at the moment, it feels more like a place to grab-and-run. This is fine and shrewd given the passing commuter footfall, but it also seems a shame since it could be great to comfortably chill out in. They also need to get a machine which allows you to pay by debit or credit card.
One other grumble is that the range, although justifiably low on variety, is needlessly low in quantity. Gold star goes to them for being open til 7pm, but, as little Oliver discovered, they go to bottom of the class for frequently running out of sandwiches by the end of the day.
The final bill may have been almost £6 but you’d pay a substantial amount more in some of the big name coffee chains positioned not so far away – and you can bet they don’t produce as good coffee or food as Laynes does.
This is a superb addition to the local restaurant scene – reasonably priced, upmarket, in a good location and an emphasis on quality. In fact, very nearly perfect.