La Casita started life as an Ilkley tapas restaurant and extended its reach to Leeds a few years ago, opening branches in Boston Spa and Horsforth, the latter of which scooped the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Oliver Awards Best European category in 2016 (it’s opening year).
In April last year, they also secured a toehold in Leeds city centre, opening up in what used to be Bilbao Bar in one of the archways at Granary Wharf.
It’s not the biggest venue but it’s nicely done out and pays homage to the location, with exposed brick walls and the vaulted ceiling still very much on view, together with some of that industrial ducting bars and restaurants so adore these days, the difference here being this looks authentic.
To begin with, I wasn’t sure about the back half of the restaurant, because part of it - the bit that houses the kitchen - is wallpapered and looks a bit like someone has built a mock-up house in a film studio, while the other half of the dining space is all soft glowing amber lights reflecting off the glass and the rain socked view beyond, the mellowing hues of pine and so forth. However, it grows on you the longer you linger.
I paid them a visit at lunchtime on Tuesday. I won’t keep you in suspense: it was entirely fabulous. Even the water tasted superb and how often do you get to say that?
Tapas being the order of the day, there’s plenty to go at, despite the menu appearing small. Previously experiences with so-called ‘small plates’ meant I was keen not to over order and so, with this in mind (and a hankering to eat healthy), I went for truffle fries (hold on... I’m not done yet), a rocket and pine nut salad (do you see how those two dishes completely cancel one another out?) and... Somalo Lomo pork lion (£5.25). The salad was £4.75, the fries £3.50. All washed down with a medium glass of house white, a positively refreshing Marques de Alfaman White (£4.70).
Let me start with the fries. Oh my god. Has a humble potato ever tasted so devilishly delicious? They were sumptuous. I began by nibbling a few before I braved the mountain of rocket but before I knew it, half of them were gone. Wonderful slivers of hot, crisp potato, drizzled in truffle oil, giving them a salty, mushroomy smack that was simply divine.
Leaving those for the time being, I braced myself for the healthy bit but do you know what, I needn’t have had any qualms about it, because it too was a revelation. Light, fresh and rewarding, which brings my to the final dish: the pork: wafer thin, melt in the mouth, served with crostinis, salsa, peashoots and pickled pepper. Service was smooth, faultless.
Verdict: I really couldn’t fault it.