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 sharing 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 creative plates like the fabada de panceta, a rich cassoulet of belly pork, chorizo and beans.
Ambiente, 36-38 The Calls, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EW. Small plates cost between £4.95 and £7.50.
A former auctioneers, Hepper House is now 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 padrones and patatas bravas, alongside decadent small plates like beef short rib with mojo verde.
Ibérica, Hepper House, 17a East Parade, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2BH. Small plates cost between £7 and £24.
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 Bareto, 120 Gledhow Valley Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 6LX. Small plates cost between £3.50 and £17.45.
No two visits to Stuzzi are ever the same. Their menu of stuzzichini, tapas-style small plates found in traditional Italian osterias, changes regularly. They source many of their ingredients directly from Italian producers, so every visit is a goldmine of culinary discoveries. Ever tried a beetroot and balsamic arancini? How about Calabrian-style pork ribs braised in ’nduja, fennel and marsala wine? This is your chance to try something completely new. And if that’s not enough, you can pick up freshly-made pasta from their deli shop.
Stuzzi, 7 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 6PQ. Small plates cost between £4.50 and £17.50.
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 19 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. Small plates cost between £3.95 and £11.75.
An alternative to your usual tapas, Pinche Pinche is a Mexican restaurant with a thing for small plates. From al pastor pork tacos to seabass ceviche 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 £3.95 and £6.95.
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 it makes a return visit almost obligatory, as do their rum cocktails.
Viva Cuba, 342 Kirkstall Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2DS. Small plates cost between £2.95 and £11.95.
La Casita has two restaurants in Leeds – one in Boston Spa and one in Ilkley. They each 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 crispy belly pork with black pudding, Granny Smith apple and almonds.
La Casita 174 High Street, Boston Spa, Wetherby, LS23 6BW & 3-5 Cunliffe Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 9DZ. Small plates cost between £5 and £9.
El Gato Negro
El Gato Negro isn’t your usual tapas experience, oh no. Chef Patron Simon Shaw sprinkles fine dining flair on Spanish classics to give them a new lease of life. The mini Catalan chorizo comes with a tangy Aspall cider sauce, the jamon Ibérico is perfectly paired with a celeriac remoulade and the salt cod croquetas have a dip-worthy piquillo pepper puree. You can enjoy it all in a restaurant packed with character because this stripped back former bank is now a bright, airy dining room, perfect for sharing mini plates of Spanish joy.
El Gato Negro, 35 Park Row, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 5JL. Small plates cost between £4.50 and £13.50.
When it comes to tapas restaurants in Leeds, Moreno’s stands alone. This welcoming, family-run eatery fuses modern Spanish favourites with flourishes of Moroccan cuisine. Yes, you can scoff all the patatas bravas, garlic king prawns and tortilla espagnola your heart desires, but you can also cross the Mediterranean to try a few North African staples. In fact, they’re famed for their lamb tagine – rich, tender meat with juicy prunes and the right level of spice, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life.
Moreno’s, 54-56 Temple Newsam Road, Halton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS15 0DR. Small plates cost between £4.50 and £8.50.
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. Just one of their tapas dishes cost more than £6 (the amazing gambas pil pil) and their servings are 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 £7.50.
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 Iberica pluma pork with padrones peppers and sea salt to saltfish fritters with Spanish white onion, coriander, lemon zest and chimichurri. The menu changes regualarly, 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 £3 and £13.
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 a balsamic reduction, so expect the unexpected.
Zucco, 603 Meanwood Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 4AY. Small plates cost between £3.50 and £9.50.
Thai tapas, anyone? That’s exactly what you’ll get at Phranakhon. It’s a quirky underground restaurant, with an oddly charming feel – think ivy hanging from the ceiling, framed portraits on the walls and book-filled shelves everywhere you look. But it’s the food you really come for, and my, it’s good. There are 80+ dishes, divided into nifty sections, so you can find just what you’re after, whether that’s perfectly crisp pork belly, diced raw salmon or creamy Panang curry. Try one, try them all, you’re in for a treat.
Phranakhon, 11 York Place, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 2DS. Small plates cost between £5.50 and £6.95.
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 £4.25 and £9.25.
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 £3.45 and £12.75.
Bomba does much more than incredible paella. This Kirkgate Market eatery has a dedicated tapas menu and it’s full of classics, done well. You can get mini chorizo sausages in a sweet red wine sauce, fried calamari drizzled with fresh lemon and patatas bravas covered in house aioli. The star of the show is the Bomba croqueta. They come three different ways – filled with spicy chorizo, portobello mushrooms or Ibérico ham. Still got room for dessert? Try their homemade churros with a pot of warm chocolate for dipping.
Bomba Paella, Leeds Kirkgate Market, Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7HY. Small plates cost between £2.50 and £4.50.Cover image credit: Marcus Macauley.