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Hazel Davis on the art of making a cake and a latte last for hours

Published on August 7th 2008.


If you were going to write a recipe for the perfect café atmosphere you could take a trip to either Vegie in Fitzroy, Melbourne or CoffeeEvolution in Huddersfield. Granted, the latter is a nearer and cheaper option but if Leeds Confidential wants to foot the bill I will happily review the former.

I am greeted by Jeremy, the jovial proprietor and – I am told – a virtuoso viola player. He banters with the queue, knows everybody’s name and has a cheeky comment for anyone who wants one.

What these two establishments have in common though is simplicity. The proprietors have clearly sat down and thought, 'What do we want? Nice coffee, simple food and somewhere to sit.' What they haven’t done is try too hard to make it trendy, jump on any minimalist/faux Victoriana/rustic farmhouse bandwagons, or try to lure the creative crowd with gimmicks.

CoffeeEvolution’s aim was clearly just to provide a nice environment in which to sip a nice coffee. But in doing that it has ensured that the ‘creatives’ come in their droves. Perched on my window seat, looking on to a fabulous Victorian edifice, I note that many of the people in here are laptop-users (taking advantage of the free wifi), art students or creative deal-clinchers.

The serving staff are smart in black and efficient, but each one of them has a small reminder that they are individuals too. One has pink streaks in her hair, one has a nose-ring, there are tattoos-a-plenty. The ethos here seems to be ‘live and let live but don’t overdo it, mate.’

I am greeted by Jeremy, the jovial proprietor and – I am told – a virtuoso viola player. He banters with the queue, knows everybody’s name and has a cheeky comment for anyone who wants one. The menu is simple but surprisingly diverse for such a small establishment. Coffees dominate, and there is a wide range of smoothies. The food menu comprises light meals in the form of tuna salads, hummus dips and paninis. I opt for a salami, cheese and olives platter (£3.50), thinking I don’t want much. My portion is enormous though and there is enough cheese to feed half of Huddersfield. The olives are a nice mix of green and black and liberally doused with dressing, the salami is plentiful and there is plenty of toast to soak up the oil. I just wanted a snack really but I fear for my working afternoon. My companion has a soup of the day, a rich leek and potato (£2.40).

The walls of CoffeeEvolution are a deep modern red. The seats are high stools against a bar which extends all around the top floor. This means that unsociable types like myself can come and face away from humanity and read G2 (and – believe me – that’s what we’re all reading) without disturbance.

But downstairs is another matter and atmosphere entirely. A windowless basement with large comfy sofas, this is where the sixth-formers come, where the art students hang out and where all human life is. There are gigantic Basquiat-esque paintings on the walls and too-cool-for-school girls with sideways hair.

I have also ordered a latte (£1.65) and a sparkling water. My latte is frothed to perfection, smells divine and comes with an artistic swirl on the top. My summer fruits smoothie is gingery and delicious and in a very classy European-style mug-glass which I might steal next time I go in.

In the event, my companion leaves me and I stay in CoffeeEvolution a long time. But everyone around me has been here for hours too. We are reading the papers in silence, we don’t need to talk and we don’t need to show off. Because I have been here so long I eventually order some more food. A truly delicious homemade slice of almond cake (£1.50) which comes, because I ask it to, with a large dollop of squirty cream. Lined up next to the cake are large, enticing jars of the biggest cookies I have ever seen.

As I buy my cake, feeling guilty for having been there so long without eating, I catch the same look in a fellow diner's eyes. We don’t want to leave. It is calm and peaceful here. We are at one. We are brothers. So we gradually buy another biscuit here, another cake here, another latte there. And nobody tells us to. And that’s how to run a café…

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
4/5 Service
5/5 Ambience
Address: CoffeeEvolution
9 Church Street
01484 432881

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