A friend of mine says Zucco in Meanwood regularly stops him seeking out new places to eat.
Why? And how? Both good questions, which shall be answered. Well, apparently, it’s soooo good there that he and his missus would rather put their money on a sure thing than a rank outsider, so to speak.
He tells me this after clocking the menu I took home with me following my visit there last week. I do that quite a bit. Take menus. Either than or take pictures of them. Purely as an aide memoire, you understand. I know what you’re thinking: ‘But menus are all on the internet now’. You would be 90 per cent right with that, too. But that still leaves 10 per cent of restaurants which either still don’t have a website (yeah, I know), don’t update it or do that thing where they change the menu a lot.
Zucco is one of the latter, as evidenced by the fact they print the date on the menu, which thankfully is a single sheet of A3 (and also doubles as a dinner mat, meaning it’s already environmentally friendly. Tick).
So, there I am staring at my screen and my friend spots the menu. At the time, I was struggling to think of how to begin writing this review but his timely intervention saved me at least five minutes of writer’s block.
My friend also went on to tell me this was one of his favourite places, that he and his wife dine there at least a few times a month, often sneaking in for lunch or a quick bite after work. He even went into detail about some of the dishes and did some pointing at the menu. All of which felt very satisfying, because, you know what (spoiler alert), I agree with him wholeheartedly. It’s way way above average here. It’s even beyond good. It’s actually amazing.
This was my (and my partner’s) first visit to Zucco and we didn’t know what to expect. It’s on the corner of Meanwood Road and Monk Bridge Road (in the same block as East of Arcadia). Not the kind of place you might expect to find a top notch restaurant but there it is. And it’s been there, hiding in plain sight (from me at least) for five years.
The schtick here is Italian tapas and boy is it good. We arrived without booking to find the place almost full but fortuitously, a table had just become free. The waiter who greeted us had it clean in double quick time, she even gave the seats a wipe, which gave me just enough time to clock the decor. It’s all very understated but has a kind of classical elegance. The ceiling is a grid of sculpted square tiles in chocolate brown, juxtaposed by the black and white tiled floor and walls. It’s one of those small but perfectly formed restaurants where every nook and cranny has been utilised but it’s all very neat and well-run, the staff are efficient and seem to know precisely what they’re doing.
And so we began, with olives (£3.50), bread, olive oil & balsamic vinegar (£3), a bottle of Catarratto organic white wine (£19.80) and a Birra Antoniana Marechiaro
(£4.80), which was nice and crisp and gone too soon. Because it’s tapas, the dishes come when they come, so at various points we receive Sicilian sausage, friarello & mozzarella pizzetta (£7.20), King prawns (£8.20), which are so crisp you can eat the whole thing, shell and all, Rabbit, pencetta, white wine & potatoes (£7.95), the sauce of which was almost like a bisque, deep and rich and silky. There was also Nonna’s polpette & spaghetti (£7.50), the meatball done to perfection and well spiced, Pizza Margarita (£6), Insalata verde (£2.90) and Rosemary potatoes (£3.50).
All of it was superb.
Service throughout was seamless: water replaced without question, plates quietly disappeared once done with, it was a joy.
There was a decent gap between mains and desserts, which we felt we had to try.
Frangipane, chocolate & pistachio sharing tart with ice cream (£6.90) and Sgroppino al limone (£4) for me and the missus and ice-cream (vanilla and chocolate, £4 each) for the kids - two scoops in a wine glasses, with a cornet sticking out of the top.
Even with the ice cream, there was no scrimping, no corner cutting. It took me back to being a child, it was so nice. And the frangipane. Wow. This was one of those melt in the mouth chocolate treats, with a deep, luxurious heart, the layers of flavour practically falling over themselves to get to your pallet. Our only criticism (minor at that) being you really needed the ice-cream which came with it, as without that it would have been a touch dry.
The final bill rolled in at £98.25. This is also the first restaurant I’ve been to in a while which hasn’t added a service charge (which is ironic, seeing as they probably deserve it), so I tipped them instead.
Rarely have I experienced such faultless cooking and polished service in a setting which is really quite delightful.
FACTFILE - ZUCCO, MEANWOOD
Address: 603 Meanwood Road, Leeds, LS6 4AY
Opening times: Mon (closed), Tue-Thur noon-2.30pm & 6pm-10pm, Fri noon-2.30pm & 5.30pm-10.30pm, Sat noon-3pm & 5pm-10.30pm, Sun noon-8.30pm
Telephone: 0113 224 9679