Thursday, 30 October 2008

Feast your eyes: Laban cafe

A cold but sunny midweek lunchtime offered the perfect excuse to stroll over to the Laban Centre and have lunch at 'Feast your eyes', the cafe in the front of the building.

Apart from the banner on the front gate of the building, this cafe is not really very well advertised, and even when you get to the front door of the Laban Centre, you could be forgiven for thinking the cafe is just for students and staff of the centre. But if you persevere past the security desk and halfway down the corridor on the right, you find the door into the light and airy space with huge glass walls that forms the cafe seating area.

The menu is fairly similar to that in the Albany Cafe (so much so that I wonder if they are run by the same company) - in that there is always a soup of the day, a range of sandwiches, and a choice of two or three mains, at least one of them veggie, and a range of salads that also change daily.

Yesterday's soup, for example, was Spanish lentil, and the choice of mains was pasta with mushrooms, lemon and caper chicken, or three-bean enchillada, which was my choice. It was a huge wrap containing a tomato sauce with chick peas, kidney beans and rice (and presumably some other bean but it didn't stay on the plate long enough for me to find out) and smothered with a delicious cheesy sauce. It came with mixed leaves in a very tasty lemon and mustard dressing and cost just under a fiver (there are discounts for staff and students).

They also have a great range of drinks, including various organic juices (I had pear) and because they are served by the glass rather than in individual bottles, they are very reasonably priced. I haven't tried the cakes or biscuits, but they look quite tasty if you have room, and of course there are hot drinks, including a wide range of different types of tea.

I particularly like the fact that they do their best to discourage waste, charging for disposable cups or takeaway boxes (which makes me wonder - do students bring their own thermos cups or plastic boxes?! I can't imagine it happening somehow..!)

It's not usually a problem finding a seat in the large, airy room which has plenty of stylish white chairs and tables where you can sit and look through the glass cladding to the Quaggy, or to the landscaped grounds outside. It's a well-used facility, you will usually be sharing with groups of dance students or staff from the centre, and it gives the place a very pleasant buzz. My one slight criticism would be that whoever chose the chairs was thinking about them very much as a style statement, not in terms of practicality - they have those 'bucket' type seats, which means they cannot be pushed under the table out of the way when they are not being used, and you are limited as to how close you can sit to your food. This can be an important consideration if you are as clumsy as me!

The other thing that's slightly irksome is the fact that it's not totally clear which of the staff do what, and the cashier often ends up adding salad to plates, or fetching drinks for people. This isn't great if you are waiting to pay and your hot food is going cold.

All in all, though, worth walking a little bit further for (and hey, it's a nice walk anyway!). The food is excellent and the dining experience much more pleasant than the gloominess of the Albany's main room, or the back of the Bear Cafe.

No comments: