From Spanish tapas to Mexican small plates, it’s fair to say that bigger isn’t always better.
Chorizo cooked in red wine with bread for dipping. Crispy calamari rings with a dollop of aioli. Soft arancini balls that give way to the gooey goodness inside. Tapas may be small in stature, but it’s big on flavour, and there are loads of restaurants where you can get it in Leeds, so if you want to create a feast of epic proportions, check out these restaurants and do it one small plate at a time.
The name speaks volumes. Ambiente roughly translates as ‘the atmosphere of a place’ – and this place has a lot of atmosphere. Exposed brickwork, original floorboards and an outdoor terrace that comes into its own in summer all combine to create a unique restaurant. But it’s the food that does the talking. Traditional dishes like patatas bravas and calamares fritos mingle with Yorkshire-meets-Spain creations like the morcilla and whole roast bream on a bed of Mediterranean vegetables.
Ambiente, 36-38 The Calls, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EW. Small plates cost between £4.50 and £12.
A former auctioneers, Hepper House has been transformed into one of the most impressive tapas restaurants in Leeds. High ceilings, swanky wallpaper and soft velvet benches set the scene for a night of fine dining and Ibérica certainly lives up to its surroundings. This is high-end fare for high-end prices, but put your hand in your pocket and you’ll be rewarded with classic Spanish dishes like albóndigas and patatas bravas, alongside decadent small plates like poached hake with baby gem and hollandaise sauce.
Ibérica, Hepper House, 17a East Parade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2BH. Small plates cost between £6 and £18.
From the petite bar above to the cavern below, El Bareto is Spanish through and through. The decor is undeniably rustic, with wood panels, warm hues and a hand-written blackboard where you’ll find all the latest specials – and there are a lot of them. The servings are generous, so expect loaded plates of garlic king prawns, chorizo in cider and sirloin steak in port sauce. With so much to choose from and a warm welcome that extends to recommendations, you won’t have any trouble filling your belly.
El Barato, 120 Gledhow Valley Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 6LX. Small plates cost between £3 and £13.
La Taberna is the very definition of a hidden gem. In fact, it’s a completely different restaurant by day – they transform Venezuelan favourite Caracas Grill into a family-run tapas restaurant after dark, so you can tuck into a menu of traditional Spanish food in the heart of Leeds. There are just 20 options on the menu, which is surprisingly small for a tapas restaurant, but there’s more than enough to keep your belly full and your smile firmly planted on. Patatas bravas, chorizo al vino, camalares fritos – you name it, they’ve got it.
La Taberna, Britannia House, 16 York Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2EU.
An alternative to your usual tapas, Pinche Pinche is a Mexican restaurant with a thing for small plates. From lamb barbacoa tacos to plantain dough balls and hibiscus flower quesadillas, they’ll whip you up an eclectic feast that’s packed with Latin American flavours. You can even get tapas-sized burritos filled with beef brisket or lightly battered fish with chipotle aioli. It’s perfect for sharing, the portions are generous and it won’t break the bank. Served in a colourful restaurant with friendly service, this is a must-try.
Pinche Pinche, 116 Harrogate Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 4NY. Small plates cost between £5 and £8.
Once a bank, now a buzzing restaurant filled with Cuban flair, Viva Cuba is a Leeds institution that has stood the test of time. Inside the colourful restaurant, you can delve into a menu of Latin American favourites. Dip into loaded bowls of beef meatballs in their homemade rosemary, red wine and tomato sauce, nibble on lightly battered calamari and bite into crispy jalapeño peppers filled with cream cheese. There’s so much to choose from here that a return visit is almost obligatory. They don’t take bookings, but you can always enjoy a rum cocktail at the bar while you wait.
Viva Cuba, 342 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2DS. Small plates cost between £4 and £11.
A growing name in tapas, La Casita now has three restaurants in Leeds – one in Horsforth, one in Boston Spa and one in the city centre. They all have the same rustic-meets-modern decor and a menu that pushes the bounds of expectations without losing sight of why we love traditional Spanish tapas. As a result, you can tuck into old favourites like tortillas, garlic prawns and ham croquettes alongside more unconventional dishes, like chilli and mango fried chicken. They do all you can eat tapas on the last Sunday of the month.
La Casita Leeds, Arch U, Granary Wharf, Dark Neville Street, LS1 4BR. La Casita Horsforth, 8-10 Town Street, Horsforth, LS18 4RJ. La Casita Boston Spa, 174 High Street, Boston Spa, Wetherby, LS23 6BW. Small plates cost between £5 and £9.
To say Kasa Rosa is just a tapas restaurant would do it an injustice. They have a spectacular selection of small plates, but you can also get full sized dishes like pasta and pizza. Everything is made fresh, from the spicy meatballs to the grilled artichokes and deep-fried crab claws, so you can create a feast worthy of sharing – and you won’t believe the prices. None of their tapas dishes cost more than £6 and their servings are really generous, which means you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the bill.
Kasa Rosa, Middleton Road, Morley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS27 8AQ. Small plates cost between £2 and £6.
Chequered floors, wooden ceilings and walls adorned with metro tiles, Zucco toes the line between modern and classic, something that carries over into the menu. They change it up regularly, so you can have something different every time you visit, but they always have a selection of Italian classics. Let’s start with what you know – pizzettes topped with spicy ‘nduja, penne arrabiata and frito misto all take pride of place on the menu, but so does duck breast with mushrooms and blackberry jus, so expect the unexpected.
Zucco, 603 Meanwood Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 4AY. Small plates cost between £3 and £13.
Dos Amigos Restaurant
A family-run restaurant with a love of Spanish style tapas, Dos Amigos is fantastic little find, which is why it’s surprising that so few people in Leeds know about it. Everything’s homemade to a traditional recipe, so you’ll be tucking into old favourites like slow roasted belly pork with cracked black pepper and chicken croquetas with aioli. Vegetarians are absolutely spoilt here with no less than 17 dishes to choose from, including their crisp arancini balls filled with mozzarella and sweet chilli sauce.
Dos Amigos Restaurant, 68-70 Abbey Road, Kirkstall, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS5 3JG. Small plates cost between £4 and £8.
What a little gem! Lupe’s Cantina is a colourful Mexican restaurant that absolutely oozes personality. From the bright yellow and blue walls to the eclectic artwork and the sugar skulls, it’s impossible not to smile in this place – and the food is just as joyous. You can feast on tacos filled with beer battered haddock. You can fill up on enchiladas stuffed with chicken, black mole and cheese. Hell, you can even try a cactus salad. But the main attraction is their queso fundido, a melted bowl of cheese with tortillas for dipping.
Lupe’s Cantina, 204 Cardigan Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1LF. Small plates cost between £3.50 and £11.
Corner House Coffee, Bar & Kitchen
Coffee shop by day, tapas bar by night, Corner House Coffee quickly won us over with their carefully crafted menu of small plates. There are just 15 dishes for you to choose from here, but what they lack in quantity, they more than make up for in quality. They’ve taken a continental approach to tapas, so deep-fried calamari and cider-braised chorizo rub shoulders with smoked haddock kedgeree and butternut squash with goats cheese and pomegranate molasses.
Corner House Coffee, Bar & Kitchen, 378 Harrogate Road, Moortown, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 6PY. Small plates cost between £3.50 and £7.
Fine dining meets small plates at Chapel Allerton’s very own Black Market. Their food is inspired by classical cuisine, but they’re not afraid to get creative in the kitchen, so you could tuck into anything from wood pigeon, fennel and chilli black pudding with raisin puree to saag aloo with potato, spinach and cumin seeds. The menu changes weekly, the welcome is warm and the food is exceptional – check it out.
Black Market, 5 Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS7 3PJ. Small plates cost between £4 and £11.Cover image credit: Marcus Macauley.