OWNED by siblings Natalie and Graham Haywood LEAF began as a small tea shop run by Natalie in a Liverpool city centre gallery in 2007, with the goal of bringing quality loose-leaf tea to the city in an intimate and bohemian space.

A move to a bigger site on Parliament Street in 2008 was followed by a hugely successful shift to a magnificent home on Bold Street. Further locations opened on Smithdown Road in 2019 and in West Kirby in 2020 with LEAF's winning blend of live music, pudding clubs and vintage markets soon receiving accolades and awards locally and nationally. 

"You never go into these things thinking they're going to last that long or even that successful," said Natalie, who has organised all manner of events this month to celebrate LEAF's 15th anniversary.

"It has been one hell of a journey from opening during the recession through to the last few years with Covid but I suppose the journey is what makes it interesting.

"I'm still not sure what the destination is and feel like I'm still on the journey but I still love coming to work so that is a good sign."

LEAF took over the former site of celebrity chef Simon Rimmer's Viking Pub and Bakehouse in West Kirby when it shut in October 2019 after a notice on the restaurant's website stated 'recent challenging times' were to blame.

Despite her predecessor's problems, Natalie was undaunted by the move and revealed she had always had her eye on the Black Horse Hill location. 

"When we got to a certain age ourselves and started to have families we began to realise that people didn't always want to come in to town," she said. "We'd opened Smithdown Road and it was really well received and quickly became a really nice family hangout. 

Chester and District Standard: LEAF in West KirbyLEAF in West Kirby (Image: Tandem PR)

"I was familiar with the West Kirby site and loved the venue - the size of it and the scope it had made it super flexible and it was one of those really opportunistic things. I got a phone call about it and we decided to go for it a day later but it was never in our long-term plans. We were just really excited by the venue. 

"I spent a lot of time in Wirral as a youngster because we had family there. I was familiar with West Kirby and it felt like the natural next step with our expansion into the suburbs which is where we think the future will be."

Once the West Kirby site was opened Natalie was determined for it to be different from LEAF's other venues.

"Obviously all the sites have the essence of LEAF and have the same menu but we try to put ourselves into different communities and try to work hard to be at the heart of them," she said. "The venues themselves are all quite iconic - the Smithdown Road site was Hatton's Model Railways and the Bold Street one is steeped in history so we try to take on the actual character of the venue and then bring in the same ethos and guiding principles.

"With West Kirby the site has that Viking past and with it being on the hill it has always felt like it has a real presence in the area."

Chester and District Standard: LEAF in West Kirby LEAF in West Kirby (Image: Tandem PR)

The pandemic hit LEAF hard just like all hospitality businesses and Natalie became a voice for the sector's struggles, even speaking to Prince William about the impact on the industry in a specially organised Zoom call.

Natalie told BBC Breakfast at the time she had initially thought the request was a hoax.

She said: “We got a phone call out of the blue last Friday and it was a request that we join the Duke for a call yesterday. Obviously I was completely shocked and initially thought it was a hoax really.

“And I was completely floored and so amazed that he could give us his time to listen to what is going on on the ground in Liverpool."

During the pandemic, Natalie reflected on what has got LEAF so far and in many ways this was a catalyst for a back to basics approach in the last two years which has reset the business and seen growth again.

"It was a really frightening time for us," she said. "We opened in West Kirby just 10 days before we got shut down but we then used the garden and the car park to host a market every Sunday.

"The space gave us flexibility to be creative and it really helped us to bed into the local community - now we we host a lot of meeting for different community groups and we have a lot of local regulars. We seem to have been really warmly welcomed everyone in Wirral.

As well as LEAF's 15th anniversary, November sees Natalie open a new venue called Little LEAF at the centre of Liverpool’s business district. It will sit at the front of One Fine Day, LEAF's sister events venue that hosts everything from weddings to corporate showcases.

"It will cater for the breakfast, lunch and brunch business in the commercial district," she added. "Depending on how that goes we will see where we end up. 

"I really like Wirral and I would never rule out opening another venue there. We're on the lookout for a wedding venue and I am always spending time over there and looking at things and I'm constantly getting ideas sent to me."


LEAF, West Kirby can be found at 9 Black Horse Hill, West Kirby, CH48 6DS

t: 0151 558 0521 / thisisleaf.co.uk