The new La Feria restaurant in Harrogate brings a welcome splash of great food and atmosphere with sunshine and style.
There’s a lot to be said for keeping it simple, especially when it comes to food. Take La Feria in Harrogate, where you can have any main course you like, as long as it’s chicken, Spanish style.
This might sound like a limited choice but, actually it’s not – far from it, as it turns out. Certainly, the elegant black chicken symbol that greets diners as they make their way up to the restaurant terrace should not discourage any non chicken eaters from entering. La Feria has plenty to offer.
This incarnation of La Feria is new, having relocated from a smaller premises on Royal Parade in Harrogate, where it was a step away from some of Harrogate’s most popular hotels and watering holes, and the lure of the Valley Gardens.
Owner Jez Verity opened La Feria there in 2014, having been inspired by noting the irresistible simplicity of bars in Andalucia that served a limited menu. He brought the idea to Harrogate and it worked, which meant his little restaurant was booked out on a regular basis.
The move last month to Cold Bath Road – albeit to a much larger space – is a bold one. If you are on foot, it’s a further five minutes uphill to reach the new La Feria – hardly arduous and barely inconvenient, but it does mean that this bar-restaurant is no longer at the heart of the bustling and stylish wining/dining area of Low Harrogate.
However, it’s testament to the growing popularity of Cold Bath Road that La Feria has chosen to relocate there – and what an impressive splash it has made. Anyone who remembers The Honest Lawyer pub, or before that, The Old Tradition, will barely recognise the building. It has been renovated, extended and decorated beautifully, with a new side wing housing the bar/dining area, and an iron canopy with a glass roof, so you can dine outdoors even when the weather says no.
There is a large uncovered terrace at the front for full-on al fresco dining. It seems to have become a popular feature already, the perfect place to enjoy one of those long, lazy, sunny lunches that somehow morph into tea-time. This is surely set to become a top Harrogate people-watching spot, as well as a dining venue.
Step inside La Feria, and you’ll find an ambiance and decor to inspire – rustic wooden floors, huge distressed shutters, artfully unfinished plasterwork and aged wooden beams. I loved the pendant lights and burnt umber quilted leather chairs. The tableware has clearly been chosen with thought and care, contemporary yet comforting, with purple and green round tumblers for table water, cacti in metal plant pots, and ornate cutlery in large glass jars.
The main restaurant is to the back, up a few steps. My dining companion told me he used to hang out there, back in the day when it was The Old Tradition. The shutters mean it’s dark, even in daytime, but it’s a chilled, easy atmosphere.
We could have started with boards of cheese or cured meats, but we chose tapas, served on wooden slabs and brown paper. First to arrive was Pepitos de cerdo, four or five fine slices of pork infused with lemon and garlic served on bread. It was succulent and delicious and cost £4.50. Then the calamari (£6) arrived, wedding ring size circles of perfection, not a hint of rubber, just crispness covering tenderness. The lemon mayonnaise was fresh and mouth-watering. The chorizo in sherry (or en jerez, £4) was the tastiest I’ve ever had, small ovals of paprika-spiced sausage from Leon.
Other tapas include Almendras, or toasted Valencia almonds in paprika, chilli and cumin (£3.50); Boquerones, or marinated Cantabrian anchovies in olive and lemon (£5); Gambas al pil-pil, or flash fried prawns with garlic, red chilli and olive oil (£6), or Pisto mixto, roasted red pepper, red onions and tomato in olive oil and herbs (£4). All or any would be excellent to accompany a drink and an afternoon sit-down, and there is also a bar menu featuring the tapas, charcuterie and cheese boards for this purpose.
Main courses were chicken, of course, and there are two “flavours” – al Andalus and the spicier al Maroc. It’s rotisserie, on the bone and half a chicken for £10 or a whole one for £18.
My dining partner chose the first while I chose the second. The chicken is served in pieces on beautiful blue and white plates and bowls. Both were astonishingly good, succulent and tender, fragranced with spices including lemon, cumin and smoked paprika. The juice in the bottom of the bowls is pure heaven and every mouthful is one to savour.
We chose three sides to go with. The chips (£3) were slim, crispy and plentiful. The green chilli salad (£5) was a star dish, with shredded cabbage, carrot, radish, red onion, green chilli and lime juice, almost a cross between a salad and a slaw. So delicious, I could happily have had it by itself, with tapas and wine (I’ve found my perfect Saturday late lunch). The side of cauliflower and picada was warm with a lightly spiced sauce and toasted almonds. Another stunning dish.
For wine, we had a sauvignon blanc, the Castelo de Medina, £22, of a fine quality that we quaffers are rarely treated to. For dessert, we chose Hot Spanish doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce (£5) – paradise on a plate.
As for the staff, they were attentive and enthusiastic, each and every one, and clearly proud of their new home. It all adds up to a highly interesting and enjoyable experience. Irresistibly laid-back and sure to become a Harrogate hit.
The total bill came to a reasonable £79, which we reckoned was pretty good value. Only trouble is, La Feria is the sort of place you want to go back to the very next day ... and that could become expensive.
Address: Wellington House, Cold Bath Road, Harrogate HG2 0NA
Opening times: Mon-Thurs noon–11.30pm, Fri-Sat 9am-00.30am, Sunday 9am-11pm