I’m not sure how many Mexican cafes have cool slate floors and exposed brick walls but Headingley’s Dare Café doesn’t wear its cuisine on its sleeve, offering a slick, modern bolt-hole from the suburb’s overwhelming studentness.
Its floor-to-ceiling windows mean that gawping is positively encouraged but its contrast to the outside street encourages warm, well-fed smugness.
Located halfway down Headingley’s main thoroughfare, Dare is the ideal vantage point from which to watch the Ottley Run - wacky students dressed as bananas/cowboys or whores. Its floor-to-ceiling windows mean that gawping is positively encouraged but its contrast to the outside street encourages warm, well-fed smugness.
We get to Dare at 6pm, in good time to benefit from its early bird offer of two meals for the price of one and are quickly shown to a tiny table for two. For all its subsequent popularity (the restaurant was completely full by the time we left), Dare is a little cramped. Our table is by the door so we had to bear the force of the wind every time it opened. But we do get a good squizz at everyone who comes in: mainly affluent students and young graduates. Mainly girls and mainly pretty ones at that.
Bland and – after a while – irritating black and white paint-portraits of selected celebrities line the walls. There are a few decent photographs which are better suited to the atmosphere than their Ikea-friendly counterparts but the café does have a changing gallery of artwork so it’s to be expected that some of them will be annoying. Unfortunately, the narrowness of the space means that the artwork is hard to avoid.
One of the most appealing things about Dare is its – well – efficiency. The tables and chairs are all wooden minimalism. The floors are clean slate, the walls are brick and the waiting staff are dressed in black with minimal accessories, often hard to find in a student town where even the most dedicated waiter will feel the need to slip in a well-placed dreadlock or a subtle nose-stud to emphasise his identity of thought.
Not so at Dare. Our waitress is clean and efficient and unfussy and just brings the food. Which is what you want. The atmosphere is a girly, chatty one and I don’t recall any piped music, at least not any annoying piped music. Enormous wine glasses dominate the tables, which are complemented with tealights. Ours blow out due to the gusts of wind but it’s a nice touch.
When we arrive we are told that the pizzas are off. It doesn’t bother me as the menu has plenty more on offer. Lasagnes and spaghettis sit happily alongside caesar salads and generous tortillas.
For our meal deal, I choose the vegetarian cannelloni (£6.95), a deliciously cheesy spinach and ricotta affair, swimming in butter, boiling hot and accompanied by fresh bread. It’s just the thing after a week on olives and nuts in an attempt to be less fat. My companion has the most expensive item on the menu, the vegetarian fajitas (£9.95), a huge skillet’s worth of tucker, complete with guacamole. I pick at hers however (she said I could) and decide smugly that I have made the better choice. My cannelloni, though burning my tongue off (perhaps that’s down to my greed and not an actual fault on the part of the restaurant) is lovely but could benefit from a side salad to make one feel less cheesy
A lovely creamy latte washes my main course down, delivered promptly and with a bonny smile. Puddings are quick and just the trick. I have cheesecake and ice-cream (£3.45) and my pal plumps (literally) for chocolate fudge cake (£3.45). Both are shop-bought and the ice cream is cheap-tasting but nonetheless very nice and well-presented. My cheese-cake has a lovely raspberry coulis, providing me with the necessary fruit or veg contingent for the meal and makes a nice change from the cream-cheese-cream-cheese overload of the meal (my fault, my choice). My companion’s fudge cake is pronounced delicious and she finishes off with impressive speed, digging into my ice cream to save me from myself.
I like Dare and I will go again. It’s not ground-breaking and it’s not a gastronome’s paradise but it’s nice food in a nice environment.
|Breakdown:|| 6/10 Food |
|Address:|| Dare |
49 Otley Rd
0113 230 2828
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