This week a brief but intense Monday morning meeting in Leeds left us with enough time to consider the question: What fun is life if there is no balance between work and play? The proximity of Tropical World could not be ignored. So, in the interests of the aforementioned work/life balance, we decided to embark on an exploration of the exotic flora and fauna reputed to live in this 30°C paradise. Where else in Yorkshire, in January, can you close your eyes, feel a warm humid breeze caress your face, and pretend that a long-haul flight has just delivered you somewhere where Seasonal Affective Disorder is but a myth? If only I had filled my hip flask with pina colada the dream would be complete.
Unfortunately an extremely early departure from home meant that we had feasted on nothing but a plate of humble cornflakes. This culinary neglect was threatening to plunge my blood sugar levels to all time low and ruin the much-anticipated Tropical World experience before we even arrived. So while I sat in the passenger seat becoming irritable and uselessly kicking the footwell, Mr Hungry Gannet was using his keen café-radar to find one of the nicest eateries we have stumbled upon in a long time.
Signage on the outside was modern, tasteful and there were no horrid fluorescent stars against which I would like to wage search and destroy guerrilla tactics. Instead, smart window vinyls declare ‘Homemade bread’. The appearance of the shop frontage conveyed the essence of the place so successfully that, even after one glance while whizzing by at 30mph, expectations were high.
If I were to say anything remotely negative about this little place it is only that the set-up is slightly confusing. The space is really quite small and when you enter you are immediately confronted by an array of refrigerated displays and counters filled with tempting goodies. We felt obliged to order fairly quickly rather than hovering around cluttering up the space so ended up choosing the first items that were in view (in the counter display at eye level). It was only after sitting down at a table (one of only two so get there early or be prepared to take away) that we discovered a paper menu listing panini, sandwiches and other items available to order. Incidentally, there is also a vast array of pizzas available after 3pm and the dough is all handmade on the premises.
In any case, the spontaneous ordering worked out for the best. We had both taken a shine to the hommity pie so, in the interests of eating as many different things as possible, decided to share that and get something else as well. Something else turned out to be a tasty looking pizza-style flatbread with black olives. I should also mention an impulse soup purchase even though it was only 11.30am. Eat well when you can – you never know when the next opportunity to dine will occur.
Everything was extraordinarily tasty. The hommity pie was the best I have ever tasted. Layers of perfectly cooked potato were surrounded with generously oozing cheese, pieces of cooked red pepper and fresh herbs. The wholemeal pastry was incredibly light and made the dish seem virtuous, despite the cheese-tastic filling. The olive pizza-bread was also superb. Tomato sauce had soaked into the dough slightly – just enough to give it a comforting texture absent in overly crisp pizza bases. The topping was deliciously salty and, yes, there was a scattering of cheese. The lamb and vegetable soup had a bold peppery taste and big chunks of tender meat. Pieces of potato had partially disintegrated into a creamy base with little flecks for texture. As for dessert, I was extremely tempted, but get this; I resisted.
Between fulfilling orders a young, smartly dressed guy, possibly the owner, was outside meticulously and deftly cleaning windows that already looked spotless. The enthusiasm, passion, pride and unswerving commitment to quality and perfection is admirable. I expect that Taste is a new venture, and I hope that they can sustain these standards and gain the reputation they deserve. But mostly I just wish that it was located just around the corner from my home.
Incidentally, if you do decide to visit Taste café, it’s worth also stopping by Tropical World. If this were a blog about a place where exotic animals and birds roam free I’d be at liberty to do a review on the merits of visiting this nearby tourist attraction. As it is primarily a food blog let’s just say that ,although Taste is worth a visit on its own merit, you may as well make a day of it. If you time it right you can have lunch there, nip in to Tropical World, then stop by on your return home for a stone-baked pizza.
Taste Gourmet Deli, Bakery & Pizzeria, 235 Chapletown Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS7 3DX, 01132 623971