You can see the concrete towers rising from the ground from Wellington Place as you approach Leeds train station from the north west - a corner of the city that is being transformed by shiny new office buildings.
Given the spot is a working hub for corporate folk, I had my suspicions that new coffee shop Sociable Folk might be a tad drab, but its minimalist decor - think exposed concrete ceiling, steel stools and seats, and dangling green, metal lamps - contributes to its relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
A lunchtime foray is an uplifting experience. Deceptively large inside, the glass floor-to-ceiling external walls pour in natural light offering a prime spot to watch the world go by, and I found the staff to be super-efficient and polite behind a counter bursting with choice.
The menu hanging over the counter offered two specials, ‘corned beef hash’ and ‘one pot chilli mac n cheese’ at £4 a pop. At the same price are a range of salads where you are invited to choose a ‘superfood’, ‘nutritious & light’ or ‘house’ base covering everything from avocado, pumpkin seeds and bulgar wheat, to spinach and cabbage; then a protein and a dressing - Asian ginger & sesame and fiery piri piri to name two.
Soup (£2.50) is served with fresh ciabatta and the same bread is lent to a choice of four different sandwiches at £3.75 each.
The best addition though was the ‘Pressed on the grill’ selection. I plumped for a Chinese pulled pork, spring onion, cucumber and cabbage with plum sauce filling (£3.75) encased in a firm but doughy flatbread, with a side of Vietnamese salad - a small plastic carton of sweet chili drizzled carrot and cabbage.
It tasted fantastic and was served to my table with a smile within minutes. The food was impossible to fault, and there was a small dish of fried-bread-type crackers to mop the salad up with. The plum sauce stood out but did not distract from the individual ingredients and the portion size was enough to sate my appetite.
‘Sociable’ takes its coffee seriously. A side wall displays the options and depending on the style - latte, Americano, etc. - they are served in different measures. My latte was dispatched at the end of the counter within 90 seconds, served in a glass tumbler and tasted satisfyingly smooth.
My dining partner was impressed too, besides the food, by the heating being cranked up on what was a very cold February day.
On leaving, marvel at the old lifting tower, dating to 1850, which once used steam power and chains to hoist railway wagons from the viaduct to the goods yard.
We were even wished a ‘goodbye’ despite it being busy.