Friday, July 2, 2010
Cawfee crawl, part 3.
After Glenn caught up with us at the Corn Exchange we decided it was time for lunch, so we went to Pickles & Potter in the Queens Arcade. No photos here because I was starting to feel a bit jittery and was trying to organise meeting people later on in a place with no mobile signal whatsoever - which under normal circumstances is a great big tick in the plus column, but not at that precise moment. Anyway, I had a humous roll and a black coffee; their sandwiches and cakes are legendary and a couple of years ago we reviewed it on T&C, and bless 'em they printed off part of it and stuck it in their window for months. Coffee here is weakish - although at this point that was a good thing - and a perfectly suitable cup to have with a bit of cake, which they provide on your teaspoon. Yes, you get the smallest piece of homemade cake known to humanity where most places would plonk a mass-produced biscuit, and for that reason P&P will always have a place in my heart. Coffee £1.75, with the smidgeon of cake.
Next: Jo & Glenn left me, and I wandered over to the Victoria Quarter and the Opposite stall that's there. Here I was joined by Katie as my Guatemalan coffee beans were being freshly ground. I adore Opposite's coffee, as they either have big flasks of it that were brewed not very long ago, or they will take beans, grind them and either use a ceramic filter system or an aeropress to get every last morsel of flavour out of the grounds. My (£2) coffee was put through the filter, Katie's Kenyan was put through the aeropress.
This was a smoky, light coffee with plenty of deep flavours - light and deep at the same time, a clever trick - that really brought home to me just how much I prefer a great, complex filter coffee over what are effectively mass-made espressos topped off with water. There's an elegance about filters, somehow. Maybe it's in the roasting; espresso roasts are always stronger and deeper than for other beans. This was a great cup of coffee, only beaten by Alex's at Bottega Milanese, and only by the finest of fine margins.
But it was also my last full cup of coffee for the day. I thought I'd had enough, the taste was starting to coat my mouth in much the same way that is described in Philip Marlowe tales, so decided to bring in the backup team - that would be Katie and Sarah - to drink the coffee, and I'd just have tasters from this point on. And I needed a break; so rather than go to the University coffee shops - which I can do at any time, really - we jumped on a bus and headed up to Chapel Allerton.
So, to Seven, an arts cafe/bar sort of thing that I could easily see becoming a local, if I lived there. They do decent tea and coffee (I'd had a whole cup of coffee - £1.80 - to myself the night before which was ok, but nothing special and took a while to get to me) and the cakes look good. Katie was hungry so ordered some food (which she then reviewed on Leedsgrub), Sarah ordered ice cream (good chocolate, mediocre strawberry but outstanding vanilla), and I ordered...
some fizzy water. Ooh yeah. Playing with the high wire.
The coffee and food took a bit of time to come along; that's the thing here - I love the atmosphere, the arts things they do are unique in Leeds, the stuff they sell is fine (although I tasted S's mocha and that just wasn't right), but the whole place seems a bit on the flaky side, like they're either very busy or not really concentrating.
After Seven we wandered up the road to what was probably my most looked-forwards to moment of the trip, the Sunshine Bakery.
David is another one of those people who loves and knows his products. Cupcakes, in this case. They are, without doubt, works of art. Michelin-starred quality of food, to be honest, at impossibly reasonable prices. The cake is stunning and the icing light and fluffy. The usual example of cupcakes are mediocre cake covered under a mountain of icing and glitter, but these are sublime. He also does tasty brownies and the incredible "shot cake", a mini mousse/trifle affair in a plastic shotglass, flavours vary daily but for a quid you really can't go wrong.
The coffee done there is from Bottega Milanese (hence excellent), but all of David's crockery is proper china tea service stuff; I couldn't resist getting a pot of green tea and a bakewell slice, both lovely. I was also a bit cheeky and asked if I could do some work experience in the kitchen, because... well, cake is my thing. I love baking, love giving cake to people, love eating the stuff (despite how bad it is for you) and I adore sharing my thoughts on cake with people, which is why I'm giving a quick talk on cake at Bettakultcha. People say your hobby shouldn't become your job, and they're right. But... ah, if I could spend my days baking I would be a happy man.
The final stop was going to be the Sunshine Bakery, but outside Katie spotted Simon, the proprietor of Salsa Mexicana and stopped for a chat, and he persuaded us to make one, last, final-honestly-guv, stop at his place. It was coming up for 5pm at this point so we popped in, intending on staying for one cup of coffee (for K) and two hot chocolates (for me and S).
I'm not one for hyperbole, but this hot chocolate was nothing short of a revelation. It was spicy, it wasn't too sweet, it was chocolatey and smooth and packed with flavour and was - yes - a light drink. The coffee was something else, too - a Mexican roast, it was light and citrussy with some serious high notes and some sort of cleansing effect on the palate. This was a cracking cup of coffee.
Simon, bless him, brought out some nibbles to try. If you ever want to try something new for lunch Salsa Mexicana has some lovely sandwiches on delicious bread they make themselves, their versions of authentic Mexican street food are incredible (if you go try the corn on the cob, and the ceviche is limey and loaded with coriander and delicious) and the desserts? Out of this world. The amaretto bread pudding alone is worth the visit, and they make a stunning and very rich tres leches. We shall certainly be revisiting, believe me.
And so that was my day doing the Cawfee Crawl. I didn't end the day jittery and wanting to run through traffic, but I did end it with the realisation that coffee, whilst nice, can get a bit samey if they're all of the same sort. Espresso-based drinks especially are guilty of this, as they can try to pack too much of a punch without getting any of the more delicate flavours out of the beans. I wonder if too much emphasis is given to making a perfect espresso when really all that's needed is a good brewing bean and a sensible approach to filtration.
If you read through all of this, then give yourself a pat on the back; well done :)