When La Casita announced they were opening in Horsforth a few years ago, it was big news.
At the time, they already had outlets in Ilkley (where they began in 2014) and Boston Spa. In November last year, they expanded further, taking over one of the railway arches down at Granary Wharf, following a not insignificant £250,000 investment. You can now add Skipton to that list - their fifth restaurant opened in November this year. Tapas must be doing well.
The Horsforth branch has been there at least two years. It opened opposite Cafe Marinetti, which has since closed, although the premises have been taken over by another restaurant. It’s a plumb spot, right at the bottom end of Town Street, close enough to Horsforth Park car park not to worry the walk-shy and snuggled between various other pubs and restaurants in what has to be one of the most commercially accommodating suburbs of Leeds - it’s one of those places which has somehow managed to hold onto its ‘independents’, of which La Casita is one. When chefs Simon Miller and Oliver Renton, together with business partner Ben Riley, opened their Ilkley branch in the not too distant past, they did so with the clear vision of bringing the spirit and verve of Andalusian tapas to Yorkshire, along with traditional wines and cocktails. It was a bold move and let’s remember, back then tapas wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today, when it sometimes seems everyone and his mother’s brother is tapping into ‘tapas’. So, hats off to them for being on the crest of that wave. It’s also worth noting that in 2016, the Horsforth branch picked up Best European restaurant in our YEP Oliver Awards and last year the Granary Wharf outlet scooped Best Lunch.
They are known for their sure-footed, well thought-out dishes which are at once simple and elegant, more often than not being elevated by the provenance of the ingredients. Their Iberico pork, for example, comes all the way from black pigs reared in Extremadura, south western Spain. It is this attention to detail, this passion, which sets them apart.
Our waitress explains that (slightly annoyingly) these tapas dishes come out “as and when they are ready”, which surely makes a mockery of the ‘appetisers’ section. In fact, we order three items from there, including pigs in blankets (£4.60), which arrive first and also halloumi popcorn (£6) and some bread and oil with balsamic (reasonable at £2.80, although it’s a game of ‘hunt the balsamic’ in the oil dish). Also, sadly, the breads and oils only arrive after some of the other dishes we ordered but they did warn us.
Our other dishes included Pechuga de pollo (£6.75): a slab of chicken breast with creamed leaks, basque cider and pancetta - it was well seasoned, the meat tender and juicy, the sauce itself silky, rich but with a deep undercurrent from the cider. If I had to pick fault, the skin could have been crispier.
Delivered alongside that at some point was lamb shoulder, one of the more expensive dishes at £8.25 but just melt-in-your-mouth heaven. There was also duck bon bons (£7.40), decorated with peashoots (as was everything else). These were substantial Scotch-egg sized balls on a thick Rioja and quince reduction. Possibly, there’s too much here for one dish; the sauce dances artfully between the kind of fruitiness you might expect from a really rich cranberry sauce and the tarteness leant by the wine.
We also had tortilla (£4.90), patatas bravas (£4.50) and fries (£2.50), all of which were good but to be honest, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs, so we probably over-ordered. Despite all that, somehow, we mustered up the courage (if you can call it that) to order dessert, which came in the form of churros, a bargain at £3.95 and conjuring up memories of trips to the seaside and freshly made doughnuts, along with one of the thinnest slivers of blackberry and sloe gin parfait I have ever seen but at £2.75 I don’t suppose there’s much room to complain about. It was a delight to eat but gone too quick, the chocolate crumb underneath not really doing much for me.
All told, with drinks of lemonade (£2.75), diet coke (£2.60) and La Casita Cervesa brewed just for them at £4.60, the final bill came to £64.15. Service was prompt, relaxed and chatty throughout and apart from a short but equally unnecessary wait at the bar just after we walked in (there were three staff behind the bar but no-one made eye contact for some time). That aside, you might argue some of the dishes here are overpriced but apart from the sharing platters, they’re still all under a tenner and for the sheer level of cooking, the invention, the attention to detail, that reduction under the duck bon bons, the sauce with the chicken, it’s a restaurant name worth sharing.
Address: 8-10 Town St, Horsforth, Leeds LS18 4RJ
Telephone: 0113 258 5781
Opening times: Monday & Tuesday 5pm-9.30pm, Wednesday & Thursday noon-2.30pm, 5pm-9.30pm, Friday and Saturday noon-2.30pm, 5pm-10pm, Sunday 5pm-9pm