‘You. Me. Tea.’
Just moments away from the hustle and bustle of Portland Street is LEAF, a surprisingly calm and serene haven that promises a warm and friendly welcome with every visit.
With over 60 different varieties of tea on offer, LEAF is guaranteed to hit the spot, however adventurous or humble your tea tastes may be.
From the moment you enter, the warm amber twinkly lights, exposed brickwork and eclectic artwork are more than inviting. Housed in the former Riba and Cube gallery, LEAF’s attention to detail and eye for beauty is a perhaps a nod to the site’s heritage. Sitting down on the plush chairs, and looking around at the printed wallpaper, hanging plant pots and descended light bulbs, LEAF’s interior is reflective of the Pinterest home I’ve always wanted.
Aside from the extensive breakfast, brunch, lunch, nibbles, sandwiches and mains menu, LEAF goes above and beyond the expectations of a cute cafe spot. Creating a versatile day and night time venue, LEAF also holds a variety of events scattered throughout the month to entice and excite our diverse city.
From Brunch & Beats with a pop-up waffle station, to Crackle & Dust where rare vinyl records are brought to you by local DJs – it is clear that LEAF is born out of a love of tea, music and good times. With their very own Book Club, there is something for everyone at LEAF.
TNT took part in Pudding Club. Held on the last Tuesday of every month, Pudding Club sets a decadent 5 course desert extravaganza. Each course is paired with an accompanying tea, carefully selected to compliment the flavour of each dish.
We started with a warm white chocolate and banana tart, paired with the herbal infusion of pure life wellbeing tea. Whilst being presented with each course, we are given an informative talk regarding the tea’s origin, its health benefits and a glimpse as to why it is the perfect match for our pudding. Listening to Emma, the General Manager and Julia, who run Pudding Club, it becomes clear that the heart and soul of LEAF lies in its tea.
The white chocolate tart is everything a desert should be. The combination of the creaminess of the chocolate, the subtle sweetness of the banana, the crumbly pastry and the surprise addition of soaked raisins, the desert is sweet, soft, smooth and crunchy. The wellbeing tea, with the blend of earthy notes as well of hints of lemongrass and orange blossom, was the perfect accompaniment to the dish. The only possible gripe would be that whilst the pastry was wonderfully buttery, it is difficult to cut into.
Next up was the Caribbean brioche with fruit curd served with exotic garden tea. The sencha tea, which as we learnt was full to the brim with anti-oxidants, had wonderful flavours of papaya, carrot and mango. The sweetness of the tea added to the already sweet and sharp flavours of the piña colada curd, serving a refreshing follow up to the previous course.
In light of National Cherry Blossom month, the third course saw a cherry and almond bakewell was paired with black wild cherry tea. The bakewell with toasted almonds and a crème anglaise sauce, as expected, was soft and succulent, a true melt-in-the-mouth moment. Whilst the tea on its own was not a personal favourite, paired with the dish it is no surprise how well they complimented one another. The sweetness of the tart needed the muscle-power of the tea.
Exactly what it says on the tin
Our next dish was the mint chocolate soufflé paired with African mint rooibos tea. With infusion of spearmint, rather than peppermint, the minty taste is complimentary and not overpowering. Paired with the chocolate soufflé, the richness and smoothness of the chocolate was a winning dish for me, despite expecting more mint running throughout the soufflé.
Finally, our 5th dish was the champagne cassis jelly with berries accompanied by silver needle tea. Silver needle tea, as fear-inducing as it sounds, is one of the purest teas with the lightest and most refreshing tastes. Picked only twice a year from the buds of the plant, the leaves remain unopened and in a needle-like shape. The initial mellow taste is later followed by an aftertaste of sweetness. Placed on top of the sweet jelly were a hexagonal shaped biscuit which, as we were told, was a nod to Manchester’s worker bee logo.
Pudding Club is exactly does exactly what it says on the tin. The communal table where we were sat was initially a surprise. But the longer we dined on desert and sipped on tea; it is easy to see why exact the ‘club’ thrives on the communal atmosphere. We talked to other desert connoisseurs and the conversation was solely focused on the taste sensations that were on offer.
The whole evening was an informative, delicious dining experience.
TNT Food & Drink Alexia Hendrickson