Head into Leeds city centre and you will find plenty of choice when it comes to vegan friendly restaurants and cafes, but wander out into the suburbs and you might struggle to find your culinary requirements met. Enter Grön Kafe, the new venture of Leeds’ own Matt Healy, finalist of BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals and creator of the award-winning restaurant, The Foundry at Saw Mill Yard. Serving breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes alongside artisan coffee and a curated menu of wines and crafted cocktails, Grön, which means ‘green’ in Swedish, is something of an indication of the Scandi-cool vibe that will be created at 454 Roundhay Road, former site of the popular Stories café.
Helmed by general manager Ste Thomas and lead barista Aleksander Szafranski, their excitement about opening the new café is tangible, and their “bromance” is clear to see too. With Aleksander taking care of the drinks menus, including exceptional coffee creations and homemade lemonades, Steve is in charge of overall operations, and it is hopefully a set-up that will work well for the friends and colleagues: “It’s good to be involved in a project where everyone’s got their own bits to take care of. On the food side there’s Matt [Healy] and we’ve got the upstairs area taking care of the coffee, wine and the customer service side,” clarifies Ste, “I can trust in Aleks to deliver amazing hot drinks and cocktail spritzers. I’ve got the easiest job just putting everything together!”
Having worked at a variety of Leeds food businesses over the years including Arc Inspirations, Sandinista Group (where he first met Aleks), The Tetley and North Bar Group, Steve then set up his own mobile coffee company, Rabbit Hole Travelling Coffee Shop which sends him to parties, outdoor events and foodie festivals across the region selling expertly-made coffee and tea. Polish-born Aleks meanwhile, has become something of a local Instagram hit as a barista who has worked at some of the best purveyors of coffee in Leeds including La Bottega Milanese, Temple and If Coffee Bar in recent years, as well as inventing cocktails at Blind Tyger. The stars aligned when Steve was looking for a drinks expert to join the small team at Grön and Aleks jumped at the chance to put his own stamp on a brand new menu: “We’ve known each other for four years now and we’ve always wanted to work together but there was never the opportunity”, explains Aleks, “I really wanted to work somewhere where I could put all my input in and as soon as Ste said that they were going to be opening this new place, I knew it was going to be good.”
Grön can be a hotspot for various occasions, be it a late brunch stop or a meet-up with friends over drinks. As well as a menu of vegan plant-based dishes such as warm falafel salads or giant couscous with roasted aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes and pomegranate seeds, breakfast options such as fluffy vegan pancakes and super fruit smoothies, there is a very tempting wine list compiled in partnership with Chapel Allerton’s Wayward Wines to sample. Whatever time of day you choose to visit Grön and the team, you can expect the same friendly and professional service. Ste tells us: “A lot of places are great for drinks, but few places get the balance right with going out of their way to make people feel really welcome. We want to put that at the forefront and the customer service is what I am most passionate about. Putting together a team of people that can provide that is number one.”
There will also be an emphasis on reducing waste, an issue facing all businesses large and small, with Aleks planning to serve up a range of homemade natural lemonades and flavoured waters that may tempt customers away from choosing pre-packaged refreshments.
And finally, Ste was also keen to highlight the warm welcome himself and Aleks have received since announcing their move to Oakwood: “Oakwood has a lot going on, Hessian is great, Preston Bar, Stew & Oyster too. The choice to set up here has been justified by when we put the vinyls up that said ‘Grön coming soon’ as we had so many messages from local businesses welcoming us to Oakwood and enquiring about the opening and the menu.
“After working in the city centre for so many years it’s nice to come to the suburbs. With the Roundhay & Oakwood Festival and Bonfire Night in the park coming up it would be great to get a stall and take part. There’s always something going on and it’s somewhere where we can settle in and really add something.”
To find out more about the menu, visit Gronkafe.co.uk or follow Grön on Instagram at @gronlds.