La Bottega Milanese has been a fixture of the Leeds coffee scene since 2009. Having moved out of its original HQ on The Calls, La Bottega now has two branches in the centre of town: a swish spot in The Light and another, more recently, in Bond Court.
We’ve visited The Light and can highly recommend it (it’s also worth noting the late opening times – 9pm on Saturdays).
However, this review concerns the Bond Court branch, and if the owners’ stylistic intentions were curtailed by The Light’s tenancy agreement, it’s here where they’ve been able to put their own unique stamp on proceedings.
It’s the kind of place we love. Convivial, communal, focusing on great produce and service. It’s a joy how the dreary, grey concrete exterior gives way to the stylish, stripped back insides.
As you might have gathered from the name, there’s a distinct Milanese twist. In terms of the coffee, that means a darker roast — the beans are roasted at a higher temperature, for longer. This is how they like things in Italy. However, it’s a dangerous art: go too dark and the coffee will taste bitter and burnt.
It’s an unusual approach for today’s top end coffee shops: the vast majority would favour a lighter roast, which has more chance of a floral, flavoursome finish. It’s one reason why Italy, for all its café heritage, is arguably lagging behind the ‘new boys’ of New Zealand, Australia, the UK and others in the world of contemporary coffee. (That said, who could beat a strong, dark espresso in a Venice canal-side cafe?)
Despite my personal preference for a lighter roast, my flat white was excellent. This is not, therefore, yet another place for mediocre Italian coffee; it’s a proper speciality coffee shop with high quality coffee prepared by savvy baristas.
It also serves terrific food with excellent lunchtime options and gorgeous Italian pasticceria.
The reason for the Italian theme is owner Alex Galantino, a Milanese who followed a girl to Leeds in 1997, broke things off a few months later and decided to stick around. Later diagnosed with a significant heart defect, he quit his job and went back to his roots (his first job was in a coffee bar in Milan) to set up La Bottega Milanese.
Alex has been pestering us for years to visit (actually, he gave up a couple of years ago, understandably). For reasons unknown it’s taken us this long to post a review.
Well, we’re delighted to report – however overdue it is – that this excellent coffee shop offers not only the best Italian-style coffee in Leeds, but also some of the city’s best coffee, full stop. A smashing place, highly recommended.
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We visited on 24 August 2015.