Find a buddy, get a table booked and stuff yourself silly with a delicious feast!
When you think tapas, you think patatas bravas, Ibérico-stuffed croquetas and calamari, but Spain doesn’t have a monopoly on small plates. From hearty Cuban platters to colourful Mexican dishes, you can get all the variety and made-for-sharing fun of tapas in some seriously tasty guises. So go for the safety of authentic Spanish dishes or embrace your adventurous side and try something new.
South American tapas in an old Yorkshire bank? It may sound like an unlikely combination, but Viva Cuba has just the right attitude to turn your misconceptions into mincemeat. Chunky wooden tables, bright red walls and an upstairs balcony bar lend a surprisingly romantic tilt to an otherwise unfussy restaurant.
Who needs fuss when you have king prawns the size of your face? Divided into land, sea and garden, the menu favours size over swagger, with giant plates of paprika-smoked lamb kebab and Cuban bean stew ripe for sharing. Fun, friendly and big in both size and character, you won’t be disappointed.
Viva Cuba, 342 Kirkstall Road, Burley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4 2DS.
There’s nothing fancy about the decor at Lupe’s Cantina, because they channel all their energy, creativity and skill into serving up a rip-roaring selection of Mexican plates that are knock-your-socks-off good.
Kick back in the simple but bright interior and go loco on authentic dishes like delicately battered fish tacos, rolled flautas crammed with spiced chicken and a zingy cactus salad that’s worth the trip alone. As long as you enjoy the adventure of trying something new, it’s hard to go wrong. Every dish unleashes a tidal wave of flavour, the atmosphere is forever buzzing and there’s Mexican beer by the bottle. Holy guacamole!
Lupe’s Cantina, 204 Cardigan Road, Burley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS6 1LF.
More top-notch tapas awaits at El Bareto, but this time it’s as traditional as it comes. Smokey Padrón peppers, creamy jamón croquetas, deeply savoury stewed chorizo and juicy king prawns swimming in garlic butter – gosh those Spaniards know how to do dinner right.
For the carb-lovers among you, chunky wedges of homemade bread can be piled high with toppings from fresh anchovies to tangy goats cheese with salmon. Hearty, authentic and served in a tiddly neighbourhood restaurant where everyone knows each others’ names, it’s feel-good food at its finest.
El Bareto, 120 Gledhow Valley Road, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS17 6LX.Cover image copyright Marcus Macauley.