I am pretty open minded when it comes to food, but try as I might, I cannot come to terms with the concept of midweek brunch. I associate the word with a long, lazy late weekend breakfast and the items on a typical menu do nothing to contradict this view. I have been wanting to review Laynes for years but they have never seemed to cater for people who have had breakfast at the conventional time and so want something a bit more suitable for 1.00pm on a rainy working day in February, when spending a couple of hours reading the papers over granola just doesn’t cut it.
It appears that I am in a minority of one when it comes to this train of thought because Laynes is one of the busiest eateries in Leeds. I made it even busier the other day when I saw on their website that they have started offering a dedicated lunch menu, an offering I couldn’t refuse.
I really wanted to enjoy my lunch at Laynes as the owner is a partner in that amazing pasta restaurant Sarto, one of my favourite spots in Leeds. This made the odds of my being disappointed about 20/1 on. Fortunately that was yet another bet on a hot favourite which let me down, as the meal I had was brilliant.
There were only three choices on the Lunch Special section of the menu but that didn’t matter because I only wanted one – don’t panic you brunch lovers, the breakfast style food range was far more comprehensive. The opening hours of 7.30am until 3.00pm would explain that. I did note that items on the menu are labelled Food, Sides, Sweet and Bakery, the headings Brunch and Breakfast being nowhere to be seen.
I settled on the Hot Smoked Salmon Fishcake with Pickled Cucumber, Creme Fraiche, Poached Egg and Lemon Dressing for £8. I had a Long Black Coffee at £2.90 to accompany the dish. The coffee arrived first and was superb. Not only do I take my coffee black but I don’t have sugar either so the only taste I get is of the brew. This was strong and on the bitter side, just as I like it. It wasn’t a face-pulling bitter but just enough to give it character and compliment the food in the same way as a decent glass of dry wine would, had they sold it.
The term ‘hot smoked salmon fishcake’ is a bit ambiguous, did it mean that the fishcake was served hot or that the salmon had been hot, rather than cold smoked. As it turned out both terms applied. The fishcake had been freshly cooked and the salmon within had a wonderfully flaky texture from being hot smoked, rather than the more silky cold smoked feel, which is great in sandwiches with cream cheese but probably not in a fishcake, especially one as wholesome as this. The potatoes which joined the salmon in the cake were cooked and left in small chunks. So many fishcakes are basically croquettes where the contents have been mashed together giving every bite the same flavour and texture. This was several cuts above those. The poached egg was perfectly cooked with the white solid and the yolk runny. The comforting combination of fish, potato and egg yolk is a classic and is one of my favourites. To offset the richness of the main components there was dressed cress, creme fraiche, dill and the most amazing pickled onion and cucumber. The accompanying wedge of lemon was left unsqueezed as I was afraid the pungency might overwhelm the main flavours and it would have been criminal to do that.
There is a Sweet section of the menu but, when I saw that the Bakery items were from Baltzersen’s in Harrogate, I had to go for one of those. I chose the Spandaur at £3.75, which is a Danish pastry with a topping of egg custard and jam which, along with the drizzle of icing made it a total treat. So much for eschewing brunch items. I just had to order a second coffee to go with it. Ignoring the teaspoon provided I used my hands to eat the confection which was every bit as good as I had hoped. It was so good that I considered ordering another one to take home but it seemed full of calories as well as taste and I didn’t want to develop Spandaur Belly – True. I also wouldn’t have been able to get a joke out of ice cream.
I must also mention the staff on both sides of the counter who were absolutely terrific. They were friendly and efficient making my visit even more memorable. Thank you.
Unlike a lot of things in life, this was an experience all the better for the long wait and I would urge you to be a bit more decisive than I and get along as soon as you can. If you can’t manage a working day lunch, might I suggest a late two-hour weekend breakfast with the newspapers. I am sure that there must be a name for that.
All photographs by Stan Graham