Review: Olive and Rye, Leeds

Olive and Rye. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Olive and Rye. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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The arcades of Leeds are home to some wonderful independent shops, bars and cafes which strive to offer something special.

It was in this spirit that chef and owner Joe Hepworth opened Olive and Rye, a deli store with a 44 seater cafe and restaurant in Queens Arcade.

His well-established venue in the nearby Thorntons Arcade, Hepworths Deli, was packed on the day we called by so we decided to try the new kid on the block.

Walking in, you are first greeted by the deli and its fabulous displays of cheese, meat and homemade produce.

A friendly server led us through to the tastefully decorated dining space with its pretty fairy lights. A soundtrack of laidback pop added to the relaxing atmosphere, although the low lighting and hushed tones made it feel a little subdued until the cafe filled up.

This is a venue that’s very much aimed at the foodies out there and it doesn’t stop at brunch, lunch and small plates – there are pop-up restaurants, cheese tastings, coffee cupping sessons and more.

Although the cafe was not particularly busy when we arrived, the two pleasant servers seemed a little flustered throughout our lunchtime visit.

It felt a little late for the brunch selection but several others chose the delicious-looking hot smoked salmon with poached eggs, toasted muffin and spicy Hollandaise, which I later wished I’d chosen.

The jars of potted meats and parfaits with toasted breads (£6.50) were very tempting, but I plumped for the Reuben – a flavoursome sandwich of peppery pastrami, homemade sauerkraut, russian dressing and swiss cheese served in rosemary foccaccia, one of the breads of the day.

My friend chose another of the sandwiches – a Wagyu minute steak with chili jam and dressed rocket – on sunblushed foccaccia and added a side of sweet potato fries.

A mix-up meant our sandwiches were served in the wrong bread and our fries arrived later, but we didn’t have the heart to make a fuss and put it down to teething problems in the first weeks.

The generous portions went down well with my friend who made light work of his tasty meal, but I found the bread a little chewy and the amount of filling made it a messy eat.

We both found the slaw on the side a little bland and an unnecessary addition to the oversized serving boards used.

We rounded off the meal with a wickedly gooey slice of gluten free chocolate cake (£2) and, with a latte (£2.50) and an elderflower Fentimans (£2), the bill came to just over £20.

Although it wasn’t the perfect first encounter, there’s great potential here and we’d happily return once the team has had time to bed in.