Saunter past Cafe Lento of a lunch time and it’s odds on you will find it standing room only, which is indicative of the fact that this now well trodden retreat is fondly thought of in general and that we as human beings have a secret longing for places which not only satisfy our constant desire to fill our bellies with all things scrumptious but also a deeper hunger of the soul.
If that sounds a little philosophical, let me explain. Because it’s not just the food - which is both exceptional and unconventional (turkey, brie and cranberry sauce sandwich or sausage, cheddar and caremalised onion) - or the service, which, again, ticks all the right boxes, or even the decor, which is as Bohemian and laid back as you like. No. It’s the vibe. It’s an underlying, understated feeling, an upspring of tranquility and calm and ultimately a sense of belonging. Cafe Lento has done that rarest of things, it has become ‘home’. At least it feels like that when you walk in.
Trek a few doors up and a few doors down and you will find other cafes doing well for themselves and that’s good enough but Cafe Lento brings something different to the table.
Part of that has to do with its owner Richard Lindley, a former headmaster who decided to strike out with the cafe several years ago and has made a more than decent job of it. He’s all full of smiles when we walk in, he remembers my name, even ithough it’s been a fair few months since I was there. It’s that personal touch which pervades, from the bleached wooden tables to the scatter cushion seating and varied selection of retro board games, books and other object d’art which pique your interest, stir childhood memories and certainly come in handy if you have children to keep occupied.
Despite looking cluttered - almost every inch of wall is filled with flyers for upcoming music events or a piece of art or album cover, clock, poster, beer mat, you name it - there’s a refreshing simplicity to the chaos, which is above all else welcoming.
The menu is also relatively uncomplicated, with ‘breakfast butties’ and ‘classics’ such as full English, soup and a roll and baked potatoes and a selection of hot and cold sandwiches. We opt for BLT (£4.50) with mayo, which is lipsmackingly salty, savoury and light and the hummus and olive plate (£4.95), which comes with sticks of carrot, cucumber and toasted soldiers but not just a few - lots. Probably as many as you’d make if you were doing it for yourself at home, which is no bad thing.
What else can I say about Cafe Lento? The coffee (Lavazza Tierra) is great, they do beer, wine, milkshakes, ice cream and cakes, there’s real HP brown sauce and Heinz ketcup but the real meal here is all about the soul.
Address: 21A North Ln, Leeds LS6 3HW
Tel: 07988 660768
Opening times: Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm, Sunday 11am-3pm