Restaurant review: Pintura, Leeds

PIC: Simon Hulme
PIC: Simon Hulme
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Let me end the suspense and say right from the off that I like Pintura Kitchen, so much so I have visited several times.

One summer night I enjoyed a meal there as the sun went down. The candles on the table were lit, the doors were open onto the paved area outside, there was a warm breeze. We could have been anywhere in Europe - not that there is anything wrong with Leeds City Centre. Not at all, but I like Pintura’s continental feel and continental hours.

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And I have made these visits even though the restaurant hasn’t been there that long, because in a short time it has blended in completely.

Once that corner was simply the back entrance to Marks and Spencers, before that there was a basement pub on that corner called the The Ostlers, but Pintura is an improvement.

And it is popular.

This latest meal was eaten at the deeply unfashionable time of 5.30pm on a Saturday because that was the only time a table was free, unless we wanted to eat at 10.15pm, which we didn’t.

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And that wasn’t a freak occurrence. The last time I tried to book they offered me 5.30pm or 10.15pm too.

Either I am doing something wrong, or this restaurant is doing a brisk trade.

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Its popularity is based on its tapas format, which mean that you are eating a good food in stylish surroundings, but without all the formality of a high-end restaurant.

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With tapas it’s all about choosing dishes together. It’s caring, sharing eating.

And the central location and that classy interior, over four floors, all add to the attractive package.

But that doesn’t mean to say Pintura is entirely problem-free.

It isn’t. Here is one problem: the basement of those four floors is a bar specialising in gin, which I had not visited before and, after my one experience, my advice would be to not include it in your visit unless you have a lot of time to spare and have a killer technique when it comes to being served.

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Because we waited an inordinate amount of time without either of the bar staff acknowledging our presence or making eye contact as they prepared complex cocktails for others.

In the end only the kindness of strangers saved us: one of the two bar staff turned to serve a man who had not been waiting nearly as long, and he kindly directed attention to little abandoned us.

It was poor form, so bad that the person who had given his slot to us eventually gave up and left without being served at all.

Upstairs in the restaurant, things were much, much better.

We were shown to a table at the back, handed menus and asked if we had eaten there before.

It seemed a shame to stop our enthusiastic waiter in his tracks so we listened as he went through the specials on the board.

The tapas come from the Basque region so are a little different to the Spanish version you may have encountered before.

The options cover a big range: octopus, prawns, black pudding, veal, omelette and, in a nod to the tapas we Brits like, patatas bravas.

There is also a section of small dishes to have with a drink, and some cold meats and cheeses, as well as those specials.

Our waiter talked about them so persuasively that we immediately ordered.

But first there were those small dishes to try, before the main event.

I was looking forward to tomato bread ( £2.50), a blend of tomato and garlic I had eaten and loved before, but this time it was a disappointment, so fridge cold that the flavours and textures did not meld as they should.

It wasn’t the pleasure to eat it should have been.

But two little crispbreads topped with juicy anchovies (£2.95) were delicious. I could have eaten a dozen of them.

From the specials board beef cheeks served with carrot puree (£6.90) was beautiful. The rich, soft, sticky braised savouriness of the meat made sweeter by the puree.

Potato and smoked fish mixed together and topped with a poached egg, with two flakes of crispbread for crunch (£6.90) was also a big success. It was smooth, comforting and satisfying.

Dishes don’t arrive at the same time but rather when they are good and ready, all adding to the pile-in-and-enjoy-it-atmosphere.

So next to the table was my favourite - the dreamy, creamy ambrosia that is the Pintura risotto (£4.95). This is a risotto made in the basque style, not from rice but from tiny pieces of pasta the size of large grains of rice.

The result is a mellow, soothing mix that will linger in your memory.

Paella (£8.95 ) was our other choice - rice and peas with salted cod, mussel and prawn, a classic combination which was good but a bit measly on the fish considering every dish is meant to be shared.

Tapas doesn’t always end in pudding but this time it did.

Cheesecake with PX-infused raisins ( £5.50) was a slab of the best kind of cheesecake - baked, not too sweet, unadorned by fruit, flowers jams or jellies, just those alcohol-soaked raisins. A simple classic.

Basque brioche pudding with Cortado ice cream was creamy, caramel-soaked and lovely.

With a bottle of Spanish white (£25) the bill came to £80.

Like the menu, it was a colourful and varied experience. Pintura is in the main very good, it’s busy, vibrant and a great addition to the city - but it needs to get that bar sorted out.

FACTFILE

Address: 1 Trinity Street, LS1 6AP

Tel: 0113 430 0915

Website: pinturakitchen.co.uk

Hours: Mon-Wed, 10am-1am; Thurs-Sat, 10am - 2am; Sun, 10am-midnight

Food ***

Value ***

Atmosphere ****

Service ***

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