Word of the day – Fettle – (noun)(syn) Condition, e.g. Stan Graham was in fine fettle; (verb) to trim or clean the rough edges of metal or pottery before firing. It is also a Northern English verb meaning to make or repair something. In addition there is a Yorkshire slang verb the meaning of which I will not go into here.
The reason I have mentioned this is that I had been thinking about lunching at the establishment which bears that name for a week or two so I decided that today was the day and it couldn’t have been more appropriate. Unfortunately, Stan Graham was not in fine fettle, at least not insofar as his teeth were concerned, so having lost a filling this morning and with a nerve exposed, every bite was like an electric shock. I rang the dentist but they could not fettle the tooth until tomorrow so I had to eat through the pain. What I do for my readers!
I arrived at just gone 11.30, having come straight from an appointment. The menu outside said that lunch didn’t begin until 11.45 but this proved to be no problem. The cafe is not licensed so I had a bottle of water whilst I ordered. As seems to be de rigueur, it was flavoured and I was offered a bottle containing either lemon chunks or cucumber slices. I had an idea of what I wanted to eat so chose the latter. What I had my eye on was the Salad Nicoise at £8.50 so the cucumber water was just the job.
Unlike Caesar salad, Nicoise does not have a set recipe but the basics of eggs, tomatoes, leaves and olives should always be there along with a fish of choice. In this case it was tuna. I absolutely loved the twist which the chef had put on it. The leaves were a mixture of red and green augmented with cold green beans, and the tomatoes instead of being raw and of the cherry variety were larger and roasted. They were not the only warm ingredients as the egg, rather than being hard boiled, was poached to perfection. The olives were green and, thank goodness, pitted, with beetroot replacing another common ingredient, potatoes. The dressing was just right and made the pain of chomping well worth while.
For dessert I had earmarked a portion of Northern Bloc ice cream but under the circumstances I thought that something above freezing point would be advisable. How right I was. There was a wonderful assortment of cakes on the counter from which I chose a Chocolate Milk Stout Cake at £3.20 along with my £2.00 black Americano coffee. The cake was dark brown and moist with a gorgeous soft iced top and as you would expect from a specialist coffee house, the Americano was superb.
Finally a word about the staff who were welcoming, efficient and pleasant without being overbearing; a balancing act which is more difficult than it sounds.
Should you be tempted to visit this establishment, and why wouldn’t you be, it is at the very end of Gt George Street opposite St George’s Church. The place was empty at 11.45 but I when I left at about 12.30 it was packed so the moral is arrive early. Should you be in the area during the evening, it turns into a restaurant on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6.00, changing its name to Fine@Fettle.
Being someone who lives life on the edge, whilst waiting for my meal I was completing the codeword puzzle in the Daily Telegraph and what should one of the words make but FETTLE. What are the odds?!
Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living. He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds. He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.