Stan Graham visits Call Lane and has a meal at Art’s Cafe where his light lunch turned into a fine feast! He gives us his review…
This week I decided to take a stroll around the area by the Corn Exchange. I find this an odd part of Leeds as it used to be a really rough part of town but is now in mid-gentrification. There is still a seedy feel to the place but the businesses are moving decidedly upmarket. One of the first of these is Art’s Cafe which, according to its website, was set up in 1994.
I am still confused as to whether or not there is an apostrophe in the name. There is one on the sign outside but it disappears on the website and credit card slip. This suggests that either the business is owned by someone called Art or the walls are covered in old masters. I don’t know about the former but again, referring to the website there is a six-weekly display of works by local artists. As I was not there to worry about semantics I took the seat allocated by the waitress and ordered from the lunch menu. I was pleased to see that this is available until 6.00pm as I find it really annoying to be told when I need to be hungry. If you are working you sometimes need to finish the job in hand before you can take a break and don’t want to be worried about completing it before 2.00pm just because the local caff stops serving at that time. In addition to the lunch menu the a la carte is also available and both looked very interesting.
As I wanted something light, a mood which didn’t last long, I chose one of the salad options. In the good old days salads, along with most other dishes, had names such as Caesar and Waldorf but now they are just a list of ingredients. The one I chose was peppered mackerel nicoise, fine beans, new potatoes, dried tomatoes, pesto and poached hens (no apostrophe) egg (£7.95) and as the goody two shoes frame of mind had evaporated I added a side of thin fries with aioli (£2.95). Antisocial warning! The aioli is generously flavoured with garlic and, although it didn’t come across as being very strong, the aroma of my breath was brought to my attention by a friend, or possibly now ex-friend, of mine later in the afternoon.
Back to the salad. I have no problem with getting a list of ingredients, provided what is on the menu is what I ends up on my plate, but this was not the case here. In addition to the items listed were green tomatoes but there was no hint of pesto. The dish was delicious with the piquancy of the peppered mackerel, the sweetness of the dried tomatoes and the freshness of the green tomatoes. The fine beans and new potatoes were a bit bland and this is where the pesto would have come to the rescue. The poached egg seemed to defy the laws of physics, being cold throughout but with the yolk still runny. It is easy to drop a poached egg in cold water to cool it off but the inside will continue to cook, thus hardening the yolk, and stay warm for a quite some time. The chef must have the timing sorted to perfection, providing a weird but very tasty experience. Although the service was efficient I was not asked if everything was all right or I would have questioned the pesto omission. From the wine list I chose a Pinot Noir at £6.25 for 250ml.
My good intentions having long gone out of the window, I succumbed to the dessert menu which was just as interesting as the main one. I opted for set vanilla custard with English strawberries, filo and champagne sorbet (£4.95) and an Americano coffee at £2.25. The dessert came as advertised but was decorated with a few strands of cress. The combination of the sweet thick custard was wonderfully offset by the incredibly flavoursome sorbet and the filo was in flakes which gave a different texture, The strawberries were also very tasty.
Art’s cafe is well worth a visit and seems to be a favourite for office lunches judging by the number of larger parties, although it manages to keep an intimacy for the single diner. I still don’t know who Art is however.
Photography by Stan Graham