Oranaise Cafe on Otley Road opened its doors in 2002 and has ever since been a popular location for North African Cuisine.
Despite cycling or running past almost daily, and hearing great things, I hadn’t eaten there, and since I am now on a mission to try all the independent cafes and restaurants in Leeds, eating at Oranaise was a must. I finally had the opportunity to go this weekend.
Walking into Oranaise on a warm, late summer evening, I almost felt like I was on a Moroccan holiday, with the Moorish lanterns hanging from the ceiling, the mirrors on the walls, and the numerous tagines and mint pots stacked on the shelves. This unassuming café was a North African sanctuary, far away from the hustle and bustle of life.
The premises are cosy, but they have managed to keep their tables well-spaced. We opted for a table for two by the door, to get a bit of a breeze (innkeeping with the holiday vibe). After a quick catch up, we ordered some drinks, mint iced tea for two, and perused the fairly extensive menu. We decided that it was too hot to go for a tagine, and as we both love picky things, we opted for the chicken shawarma mezze plate, with extra tapas dishes of falafel, halloumi and grilled aubergine.
When the food arrived, we were shocked by how much we had ordered, but we were keen to dig in. I loved the crispy homemade falafel, which were packed with flavour (not like the dry, flavourless falafel that you so often find in the supermarket). The aubergine was well cooked, although I felt that it was missing the ‘spicy tomato’ sauce that was described on the menu, and as a result was a little bland. We both loved the mezze plate and appreciated the amount of hummus and tzatziki that was offered. The generous portion of chicken was also well cooked. We both liked the halloumi, which was also well cooked (not rubbery like it can be). And, to top everything off, all the plates came with salad, so we certainly achieved our 5-A-Day!
Despite the generous portions of our main course, we couldn’t resist trying some dessert. I opted for the baklava and my friend chose the raspberry smoothie. I only expected one baklava, so when 3 arrived, I was again shocked, but was happy to be able try a selection. I was also able to share them with my friend, which was an added bonus. They were very sweet, as baklava should be, and I loved the sticky nut mixture inside. My friend really enjoyed the kadalfi, which was made with vermicelli style pastry and was filled with pecans and pistachios. We both thought that it reminded us of the flavours of cornflake cake at school and laughed at how we thought it would be better with custard! The smoothie was very refreshing and was a great way to end the meal.
Overall, we had a lovely evening at Oranaise Café. The service was friendly and welcoming, the space was clean and felt safe, and the food was brilliant. I will certainly be going back, and when I do, I will make sure I go with a good appetite as the portions are generous.
Yet another gem to add to your list of independent eateries to visit in Leeds!
All photographs by Gemma Bridge.