For the second instalment of my review of The North’s coffee community I wanted to focus on Laynes Espresso. When you talk about coffee in Leeds, here is one of a core group of independent coffee shops that’s spoken about with the utmost respect. It would be a disservice just to talk about the shop itself, as the story that was written before Laynes was born is just as important.
Dave Olejnik has always had a love of coffee, maybe it’s coded in his DNA. In the late 90’s he frustratingly couldn’t find anywhere that sold good coffee, but then a pivotal moment occurred when in his early 20’s and unemployed, Leeds coffee pioneer Opposite opened and became one of the first decent coffee independents around. This is where a friendship with Opposite’s owner Louise began, getting a job there killed two birds with one stone – he started earning a living while drinking coffee for free – all was good!!
Here Dave learnt his craft, Opposite was to become one of the major players in Leeds’ independent coffee scene setting a benchmark for other coffee shops to reach, with attention to detail in every aspect of the business being essential.
Meanwhile, with Dave’s other love of playing in bands, his life became a combination of coffee, touring around and stage manager at the Cockpit. Another fortunate meeting occurred here when he became friends with the boss of the now popular Northern Quarter haunt, The Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen. The next few years saw Dave travel the world as a guitar technician, however, his passion for coffee still burned brightly, to the point when working in the USA he’d use his free time to quietly research the coffee industry. A typical example was in Seattle where he once lived, Dave saw firsthand how the blend of great coffee and the aesthetic could result in a coffee community for like-minded people. These little jaunts are where it all started to click into place with what could be achieved.
Now back in the UK in 2009, Dave met Paul who worked for Coffee Community, which had a large part in driving forward the coffee scene. He worked for 3 years as a consultant travelling across the world training and auditing, helping to improve the skills and expertise in a number of establishments. With the knowledge and experience he’d gained from this, and also from Opposite, he decided to set up his own coffee venture.
In 2011 Laynes Espresso was born and from the start Dave knew location would be essential. It had to be in the city centre near the high street, partly to show that people didn’t have to conform and go to the multitude of coffee chains. You could get a superb product with service to match from a local independent, just down the road!! To me, and many others it’s a NO-BRAINER!!
Laynes Espresso has since become very much a coffee lovers haven, one of THE best places for the drink anywhere in Leeds, situated at the bottom of Leeds City train station making it ideal for commuters. This is my other ‘go-to’ place for a coffee when I park this side of town. My favourite is a piccolo with a Brioche Bostok slice, made by the Dumouchel Bakery in Garforth, they are just perfect together.
From street level it has an orange facade which I love, and then a completely unpretentious feel once inside. It’s odd really because I’ve been in there many times since this slow burning affection for the drink has developed, and even though I don’t really know any of their names behind the counter, I always feel at ease there. Walking from the noise and busyness of Boar Lane into Laynes I find a form of tranquility and calmness that’s immediate. With the sounds of the Synesso coffee machine, chatter and the team behind the counter quietly getting on with the job, it always seems a very peaceful environment to me.
For Laynes it’s really about the product and service, what the place lacks in square footage it completely beats that hands down with its coffee. Their regular espresso is from friends, London based roasters Square Mile, and they regularly change their guest coffee such as using local roasters North Star as well as from other parts of Europe.
Also serving breakfast, sandwiches, soups and cakes, they champion local producers, such as Leeds Bread Co-op and Bondgate Bakery from Otley for their bread, White Rose Bakes, a York-based producer of contemporary artisan sweet baked goods and Leeds locals R.K Harris & Sons for the fruit and veg.
Dave is immensely proud of Laynes, as he should be as the place has the affection of many, and is testament to how he works with the rest of the Laynes team. Where staff turnover is virtually non-existent and retention is very high, there’s an obvious loyalty which exists.
Recently Laynes has started serving brunch at The Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, which was instantly hugely popular and indicative of the following that both of these parties have.
The man behind the food is Carl Fleischer, who first joined the fold when a student, initially training to be a chef. Dave with Paul, his colleague from Coffee Community, were devising a City & Guilds Barista training course at Rotherham Catering College, when Dave noticed a young man not only with an interest in food, but also in coffee. He soon moved to Leeds, working with Opposite at the Victoria Quarter site and then with Laynes.
Laynes are also in residency at The Belgrave, serving coffee and cake to the masses daily, with a lot more seating to play with you know you can get great coffee in the Northern Quarter as well now.
Whilst Laynes are working with other Leeds independents such as The Belgrave, another part of Dave’s philosophy is to push the expertise of coffee drinkers and makers, whether practising baristas or domestic home drinkers. Offering a number of training courses to people at all levels – from basic barista skills, latte art to commercial training. With Dave’s depth of knowledge and expertise in every facet, he is more than equipped to provide a service to novices, potential coffee shop owners and professionals alike.
I love Laynes and I’m not surprised it has such a loyal following. It’s somewhere you can relax, have a perfect coffee and in my opinion THE best cake to accompany it. I’m biased about the Brioche Bostok slice, but you’d be foolish not to try one.
To conclude from all the above, all that’s left to say is there’s really NO reason to frequent any coffee shop chain when you can go to an independent like Laynes – small but perfectly formed.
16 New Station St