Bar review: Chida Cantina, Leeds

PIC: James Hardisty
PIC: James Hardisty
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When I passed by Sandinista earlier this year and noticed it was undergoing a refit, my heart sank a little.

It was a bar that held some great, if somewhat hazy, memories and had come back into favour with this Barfly in the past year or so.

PIC: James Hardisty

PIC: James Hardisty

Head there on any Friday night and you would be guaranteed a lively atmosphere and a crowd of drinkers squeezed onto the small dancefloor.

What has taken its place is Chida Bar and Cantina, a venue devoted to tequila and what looked like some mouthwatering Mexican food which I’ll certainly be returning to sample.

Arriving on a Thursday night, we were greeted by one of the genuinely friendly bar staff and chose one of the large booths along the window with a view of the whole bar.

Completely refitted, it hints at the Mexican inspiration without straying into tacky theme territory. Little nods to Mexico, such as a portrait of artist Frida Kahlo, bring splashes of colour to the dark wood bar and exposed brickwork.

There was a more laidback vibe when we visited, but the soundtrack of rock and indie classics hinted that the party bar of old most likely returns come the weekend.

I should confess at this point that I’m something of a heathen when it comes to tequila. This is a drink that remains inextricably associated with my student days when it came out of a bottle topped by a little sombrero and was drunk with a sense of foreboding.

Thankfully, this is not how Chida like to do things. Instead they’ve been welcoming mezcal and tequila producers to share their expertise during tasting and pairing events.

And for those visiting mid-evening like us, there’s table service from attentive staff too.

Not feeling brave enough to tackle the tequila or mezcal neat, I chose one of the range of cocktails featuring the spirits (£7.50-£8.50).

The Chida Margarita is a blend of Tapatio blanco tequila and house sours mix of orange, lime and grapefruit with a dehydrated orange floating on the top.

Made slightly sweeter to my taste, it had a kick but proved to be one of the most enjoyable margaritas I’ve sampled.

This was followed by Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, a delicious and beautifully presented pink cocktail of Tanqueray gin, Briottet raspberry liqueur, house ‘flower syrup’ with lavender, rose topped with egg white.

Not one to mess with spirits, my friend opted for schooners of lager (2/3 pint) in the form of the refreshing Chida Palax and La Piraita instead.

All in our four drinks didn’t leave much change from £25, but this bar knocks the spots off some of its over-rated rivals in the same price range.