A love letter to Bakery 164, the tastiest damn place in Leeds
Fuck the Hidden Cafe
Leeds is – as we all know – the greatest university of all time. A beautiful campus, the best parties in the land – where you’ll meet reliably fantastic looking students, your very own student slum and, to top it off, a pretty decent academic reputation to boot.
And yet, there is one revered Leeds institution that leaves it grads with something more than a penchant for topknots and previously owned clothing. An altogether harder, more focaccia-y itch to scratch. I’m referring of course to everyone’s favourite lunchtime hero – Bakery 164.
In our first year 164 proved tantalisingly hard to find for some of us, despite being mere yards from Leeds’ most iconic Parkinson building. Looking back, simply following our noses and the flow of students weaving between cars on Woodhouse Lane, eager to join the scrum outside the Italian cafe, would have been a good start.
Once discovered, 164 manages to work its way into Leeds students lunchtime hearts in a way unlike any other establishment in the city. In truth, our lives would be much easier if we could bring ourselves to eat elsewhere. The 1909 Victorian shop is tiny, with half of the available space taken up by shelves stocked with sandwiches; the other is packed with wrestling bodies fighting to get in. Any regular 164 punter will know that once inside, all previously held notions of waiting patiently in line are out the window. Regular lunches at 164 require a determined mind and more often than not, semi-professional barging techniques.
The battle to get to the counter is worth it. By the time you reach the counter (looking something like Jon Snow in that Battle scene in Game of thrones season 6, I imagine) the challenge is only half done. The staff, though lovely, don’t wait around. It’s a dog eat dog world at the front of the 164 mob, you won’t be served if you wait patiently, get attention in any way you can, pay for your sandwich, and get it toasted (because really, what is a non-toasted 164?).
You’ll get given a wooden order number, then it’s back into the crowd. You may spend around another five minutes being jostled around the shop like a lemon, until you receive summons back to the front to collect your prize.
One valiant push later and there you are. Back on the street, hot sandwich (in tin foil paper bag) in hand; ready to join the crowd on Parkinson steps and have the best 10 minutes of your university day.
Now, if you are about to start uni at Leeds, you may be wondering why this tale of the valiant efforts made for sandwiches day in, day out is worth telling. What is so good about 164 that creates Black Friday-esque fervour every single day?
In truth, that’s hard to answer. Is it the vast array of exotic fillings that grace the shelves each day? Think sweet potato, chicken and sea salt mayonnaise; halloumi, butternut squash and cinnamon; even fried squid and tartare sauce, all packaged inside fresh baked focaccia, each day a different bread. Olives, tomatoes, onions, you name it, 164 has put it in a sarnie.
Honestly though, whichever filling you go for won’t matter, as anyone who has loved 164 as I did knows, you will be back again tomorrow. Come 1pm you’ll be there, shoving with the rest of the university to get your fix. No one aspect of the 164 experience is perfect, but like all great relationships, its imperfections make it perfect.
As a graduate, queuing like a normal human each lunchtime, far away from the sandwich shop that fuelled my degree, I feel a profound sense of loss. But as they say, better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
Let’s be honest, Leeds isn’t that far away, and if I’m ever making a trip up the M1, I know exactly where I’m heading first.