I say, I say, I say! What do you get if you cross a library, an art gallery, a bakery, a coffee house and a philanthropic organisation? 
I don’t know, what do you get if you cross a library, an art gallery, a bakery, a coffee house and a philanthropic organisation? 
Café 164. 
I don’t wish to know that, kindly leave the page!

The other day I had an early afternoon appointment in an East Leeds suburb so I decided to walk it from the bus station. Before setting off I thought that a spot of food would be in order to make sure that the fuel tank was full enough to last me for the journey. I have called into Café 164 before but it was during the late afternoon and they were just about to close meaning that I couldn’t get a fair idea of the place so I decided to pay another visit at lunchtime and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. 

On walking into the café which is in Munro House, on Duke Street opposite the bus station, you are confronted by a raised serving bar with the usual display cabinets and shelves. They seem to do a roaring trade in takeaway food as there were several people milling around waiting for their orders. I perused the wares and opted for a Bacon and Brie sandwich in ciabatta for £3.50 which I thought would fit the bill perfectly. The sight of squares of Raspberry and Hazelnut Cake at £3.00 got me wondering as to whether I would need additional energy for the walk ahead. No prizes for guessing which way my decision went. Finally I ordered a black Americano at £2.10, which I was told would be prepared and should be collected at the end of the counter shortly. At this point I discovered the main flaw in the system as there were no trays provided. Even though I didn’t have anything else to carry I only have two hands and so decided that I should find a table, deposit my eats and return for the coffee and napkins, which I did. Not greatly satisfactory. 

When I found a space I put my sarnie and cake on the table and went back for the coffee at the far end of the counter, an exercise which nearly caused me to closely examine the flooring as there is a step down at the end of the bar which is not very well marked and so I missed it and lost my balance, just recovering it in the nick of time. I got my brew and returned to my seat. The table was for two people but, had I taken the chair which I first meant to, it would have caused the main access route from one part of the room to the other to be blocked, so I sat at the other side instead. Even so it was still a bit of a squeeze for those passing opposite.

Once ensconced in my seat I proceeded to unwrap the sandwich. The bread was perfectly fresh and the filling generous. All of the bread is baked on a daily basis both on the premises here and at the take-away shop, Bakery 164 on Woodhouse Lane, so is wonderfully light and soft. They bake both ciabatta and focaccia using just water, extra virgin olive oil, yeast, flour and salt. As well as the fillings advertised on the wrapper there were lettuce and tomatoes, again perfectly fresh. The creamy brie had its normal fruity tang but it was the bacon which had the starring role. Bacon in cold sandwiches is usually either flaccid and fatty or crispy to the point of being borderline pork scratchings, this was cooked just right and very much on the lean side. There was a constant stream of people appearing from the kitchen and bakery round the back to replenish the displays which was good to see. 
I referred to the philanthropy earlier and this is displayed by giving any unsold sandwiches at the end of the day to food and homeless charities, meaning that as well as doing good, they ensure that every sandwich served has been freshly made that day. Win/win.

If the sandwich was very good then the cake was well up there with it. I thought that it might have been a bit heavy and that my eyes had made a promise my stomach couldn’t keep but it turned out to be lovely and light. The cherries were liberally spread amongst the piece and had a taste which was sweet with just a hint of bitterness to counteract the nuts and sweetness of the featherlight cake. 

The coffee was just how I like it, being on the strong side, again with a hint of bitterness but not excessively so. Had it been a wine I would have called it a perfect pairing for both dishes, not a bad trick with one being sweet and the other savoury. 

On the previous visit to which I referred earlier, I had partaken of the Beef Pastrami with mustard mayo, spinach, vine tomato, Emmental cheese and dill chips which was also a superb combination and equally fresh even though purchased last thing.

A look around the premises revealed that the walls were either bedecked with paintings and other artworks, or artworks in themselves, the most striking being that between the café and the kitchen/bakery. In the part of the space accessed by passing my table, there was an exhibition of screen prints by Mick Marston called From Angler To Helicopter (& Stuff In Between) which is running until 18th April so the eye had plenty to occupy it whilst chomping away.

By the toilets there is a small library facilitating the exchange of books, which is a nice touch, hopefully not leading to people lingering longer than necessary in the facilities having become engrossed!

I must say that I enjoyed my lunch very much indeed and, at £8.60 for the lot is much better in both value and ambience than the large chains in the city centre. So if you want something quick, fresh and good value then I suggest that you pop in but please, mind the step!

This article is also available on my other site Lunch in Leeds with Stan Graham Please go to:


All photographs by Stan Graham

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