The Café that’s a legend in its own right.

Liz visits Marks and Spencers new 2nd floor café

The Café that’s a legend in its own right.

Although the centre of Leeds is saturated with coffee shops, fast food dining outlets, restaurants and upmarket designer tea shops – there is really only one genuine old fashioned style café.

It’s a place where the older generation can meet and don’t feel intimidated or out of place sitting alone over a cuppa and a snack. Where ladies who lunch can choose a healthy option or a sinful piece of cake. Where mums, whether their off spring are two weeks or twenty two years old can enjoy a well earned rest from shopping and where city workers can chill and enjoy quick service in their well earned lunch break.

The place – have you guessed ? It’s Marks and Spencers Café.

In the 50’s Leeds had a plethora of cafes. As a toddler, I was introduced into the café society of Leeds having a mum, who insisted her daughter should learn the social graces and know how to behave when eating out from a very early age.

She would take me on Saturday to Schofields Café. On a Tuesday we would go to Mathias Robinson’s top floor Café with maybe Fridays at Collinson’s which had three piece orchestra – the later is a dim memory as I was probably in my push chair then! But on Thursdays with Gran it would be the downstairs café in Marks and Spencer’s. Oh how I loved the ham rolls and the coloured jelly with cream.

That place was magic to me with its cafeteria counter and plastic doored hatches to choose your food from. They always served high quality food that tasted so delicious – something that still happens today.

And now Marks and Spencers have added a second café to their store with a new 100 seater café on the second floor which has panoramic views from its glass covered terrace over the Trinity development.

Although it seats 100 the café is skilfully designed and arranged to give an intimate yet spacious feel. There’s different types of seating too with some comfy sofas and low tables at the top end and wall seating or tables in the middle part.

The terrace area is perfect for those who want to watch the world go by and gave me a feeling of nostalgia as its directly opposite the old Yorkshire Evening News building. There until the 60’s, you could watch the presses rolling and the paper being printed through the large glass windows. I was always insistent that I was taken there to view this magnificent site. Little did I realise then that the seeds were being sewn for my journalist career in newspapers some years later.

There’s a new range of food available plus, of course, all the old favourites in both cafes and if you are watching your waistline there’s the calorie content of the dishes printed on the blackboard menu.

I have always enjoyed the range of sandwiches and oh the heaven of it to have the crusts cut off giving that dainty afternoon feeling. My colleague plumped for the assorted pack and was not disappointed commenting on the quality of the chicken and ham and the fact the sandwiches were not over doused with mayonnaise.

I decided to try one of the new platters, which at £4.95 are excellent value. I chose the Italian one which came with three small dishes on a long tray. There was butternut squash ravioli, tomato and mozzarella arancini balls and a delicious portion of beefy meat balls. The portions are ideal for a snack or light lunch and each dish was really flavoursome and are perfect for sharing as my colleague and I did.

The next dish was my “heaven on a plate” and came from the selection of toasties. But these are no ordinary toasties but designer ones made with bloomer bread and culinary skills second to non. I had the Emmental and Portobello Mushroom one, which is lower in calories than the others and a vegetarian option. What can I say – the cheese was melted to perfection and the cooked mushrooms just as they should be juicy and soft. The cheese had a tangy, mellow flavour – in fact it reminded me of a Welsh Rarebit style dish – the whole thing just melted in your mouth and was more than morish!!!!

You can’t visit any café without finishing off with a cake and yes we did have room for one. My colleague tried the Pear and Almond Tart. The pastry was crispy and the filling was light and moist and had just the right amount of almond flavour with a pear resting on the top.

I opted for carrot cake as this is always a test of a patisserie’s wares. Sometimes it can be overly sweet, sometimes even gritty but this generous portion was moist and flavoursome with a not overly sweet butter cream topping.

Whether its for a quick coffee – and they have four types and a wonderful hot chocolate topped with cream and marshmallows plus teas and soft drinks – or a light lunch or even breakfast

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