Review: Dare Cafe, Headingley, Leeds

Dare Cafe, in Otley Road, Headingley. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Dare Cafe, in Otley Road, Headingley. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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Great value deals are synonymous with Leeds’s student suburb Headingley, although quality is not always a guarantee.

Whether you’re a student or not, venturing into the city’s university heartland to make the most of early bird deals and two-for-one offers is a proven pound saver.

Dare Cafe, Otley Road, Headingley. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Dare Cafe, Otley Road, Headingley. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Expecting the place to be awash with students, we geared up for an early evening jaunt to the popular student bolt-hole Dare Cafe, in Otley Road.

Despite being situated on Headingley’s main transport artery, this diminutive terrace is easy to miss.

A black painted facade with part-frosted, branded windows, cosy Dare is a decent capacity eatery packed into a pretty tight two-storey space.

Popping in midweek, we squeezed through a corridor entrance and entered the bustling ground floor space that was packed with diners – surprisingly of all ages.

There’s clearly a demand for the food here, which instantly raised expectations, because the interior itself is cosy but not particularly plush.

The tall leather chairs, plain wooden tables and dark tiled flooring are all pretty practical downstairs, while the bare brick walls add a bit of character to this warm little venue. Upstairs the decor matches but there’s less bare brick and more out-there purple and green walls. All-in-all it’s pretty comfortable but no minimalist masterpiece.

And I guess for a good value meal, you’re not exactly looking for anything extraordinarily easy on the eye.

We had a slight wait for a table when we popped by but the friendly waitress promptly turned it around and we were served in the comfy downstairs space in minutes.

Known well locally for its hangover cure all-day breakfast, we decided to give Dare’s evening menu a try. It’s full of Mexican options as well as a good range of pizzas, pastas and tapas dishes. There’s also a hearty selection of desserts.

We opted for pan fried Cajun chicken, which came with Mexican rice and a side salad, and enchiladas filled with goats cheese, peppers and olives and soaked in more cheese and homemade bravas sauce, which also came with salad.

The former was a succulent spiced dish which left a warm tingle on the palate. Delicious, filling and perfectly cooked, it was simple and effective.

My partner’s enchiladas were equally enjoyable as a vegetarian take on traditional Mexican food, the indulgent cheeses combining but not overpowering the dish.

Washed down with a glass of apple juice and a small glass of white wine, our bill came to a good value £23.55. It was pretty obvious why Dare was so busy – the food is good quality and well priced.