Becky Fry pulls an all-dayer at this place with breakfast, lunch and dinner

WHILE some of Liverpool’s biggest high-street names have been shutting up shop in the city centre, the independent restaurant scene in the south of the city has been undergoing a bit of a revival. Following a string of successful openings from the likes of Maray, Grilla and Tiger Rock, the latest big name to move into L15 is LEAF, the second edition of one of Bold Street’s most iconic coffee shops.

The Saturday-morning queues were just as hefty as its neighbour’s

The huge space located inside former model train shop Hatton’s is now a shrine to the tea leaf and, with around 55 varieties of loose leaf to be sampled (yes I counted), it certainly earns its name. Those with a nose for nostalgia need not worry as the old, well-loved Hatton’s signage now takes pride of place as a communal dining table in the centre of the restaurant in a stylish homage to its former occupant. This place has the same community feel as its Bold Street counterpart but wall-to-wall windows instead of grand red curtains give this one a fresher, more youthful feel.

2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Cappuccino
Hot drinks are the order of the day at LEAF
2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Interior
Inside leaf

I’d consider it a bold move to open up a brunch joint opposite the Tavern Co (a place once hailed as the best brekkie in Britain), but LEAF has earned its good reputation and the Saturday-morning queues were just as hefty as its neighbour’s.

2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Cinnamon Toast
Sweet treat: cinnamon toast

Cinnamon toast (£7.25) was a tower of butter-fried brioche smothered in smooth banana puree, nuts and sweet vanilla mascarpone. It may have been more dessert than breakfast, but it was pure joy on a plate. If you’re more of the savoury persuasion there’s also the full line-up of breakfast classics alongside some more interesting options. A wedge of toasted sourdough with bacon jam (£7.95) was as pretty as a picture and tasted just as good paired with runny poached eggs, pistachio dukkha and a scoop of salty blue cheese. With a morning menu this diverse, it’s no wonder they’re so confident.

2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Sourdough
The sourdough dish was a hit

After dark, you’ll find dimmer lighting and flickering candles transform the cafe space and make for a more intimate and romantic dining experience. There’s a select evening menu consisting mostly of small plates and sandwiches alongside wine, beers and a few tea-based cocktails including a delicate rose petal infused G&T (£6.65) and a Negroni infused with Lapsang tea (£6.95).

2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Crab Toast
An identity crisis on the crab toast front

At this sitting, we started with warm crab toasts (£6.95), which were supposed to come with lemon aioli but instead arrived with a layer of melted cheese on top, an eye-watering whack of Tabasco, and a garnish of fresh tomato and red onion. The sweet crab meat was lovely but in the words of my date: ‘What’s it meant to be? A bruschetta or a cheese toastie?’

2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Chorizo
Flavour of the moment: chorizo and focaccia

Baby chorizo (£6.25) came just as expected; the sticky sherry and honey glaze mopped up thoroughly with a wedge of rosemary focaccia served on the side.

2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Moroccan Chicken Flatbread
Moroccan chicken flatbread - sounds more exciting than it is

For mains, a Moroccan chicken flatbread (£9.50) was pleasant enough but perhaps not the most exciting of dinner options, though I’ll blame that one on my partner’s poor ordering skills. I chose pan-fried chicken (£11.95), which was much more substantial and by far our favourite dish from the evening menu. Soft leg meat was served with a crispy block of bubble and squeak, buttery cabbage and a rich cream sauce, a drizzle of honey mustard glaze was just enough to stop it becoming too rich.

2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Chicken
Pan-fried chicken is a finger-lickin' winner

While it’s still early days in their new home, early signs are pointing to a successful new venture for LEAF. As their motto says, ‘where there’s tea there’s hope’, and frankly, anywhere brewing up good food and great atmosphere like this shouldn’t be too worried.  

Leaf, 364-368, Smithdown Road, L15 5AN  

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2019 10 12 Leaf Smithdown Receipt

The scores:

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 7/10

    Cinnamon toast 10, sourdough 8, crab toast 6, chorizo 8, Moroccan flatbread 7, pan-fried chicken 8

  • Service 4/5

    You order at the counter but they’re a friendly bunch!

  • Atmosphere 4/5

    Buzzing from dawn ’til dusk