El Bareto has been on my wish list for years and long before I moved to North Leeds. It came in to my consciousness due to a blog that is no longer available to view.
I briefly mentioned in one of my Brussels posts that local food blogs tend to focus too much on what is new and popular and old favourites are often forgotten. With that in mind I found myself sitting in El Bareto on a rather humid Friday night wondering if they could be one of those old favourites now sadly out of the limelight on the local food blogs.
When we arrived there were people enjoying the bar inside and outside, just a couple of people were sat outside and eating. We tested the ambiance outside and decided it felt too much like we were sat in a car park so asked to be seated inside after about 5 minutes.
We were led down to the basement which was much more ambient with candle lighting and a black board of specials above our head. Apologies in advance for poor picture quality, candle light is romantic but meagre for blog pictures.
Our tipple of the night was a rioja, when in Rome.. or Spain... or Chapel Allerton... Whatever, you know what I mean. I opted for the midrange wine, ie not the cheapest and not the most expensive something that sat comfortably in the middle. It was pretty pleasant and drifted down our throats a little too well... someone send me on a wine course so I can describe wines better!
|Middle of the road rioja|
Fresh sticks of bread (not bread-sticks) were served to us whilst we were introduced to the menu by the waiter. They were warm, the butter was warm, it soaked up the wine a little. All was good.
|Fresh sticks of bread|
Alongside the official menus we were handed a paper tick-box menu to help us with our order. Such a brilliant idea when eating tapas as I'm always counting my options on my fingers (toes if I'm feeling greedy) and repeating the order over and over in my head so I don't accidentally omit a lusted after dish.
|The tick box menu was most welcome|
We stuck to the recommendation of 6 dishes per two people, plus some olives to nibble on whilst we waited and drank some more. We opted for the more traditional (or common) tapas dishes to serve as a comparison for our first visit against other tapas place. It's a rule of thumb for me when trying out new places (such as Indian or Spanish), venturing further in to the menu on the next visit. If you can't get the basics right what's the point?
The dishes were brought out to the table as and when they were ready, a promise that was given at Pintura but never happened, leaving enough room on the table at all times throughout the meal.
First to be served was the chorizo in cider. I was a little apprehensive as to what chorizo in cider would be like. I've had chorizo in rioja and general caramelised chorizo, I wasn't sure if the acidic taste of cider would work well with the smoky taste of chorizo. I needed not to of worried however as it was delightful. The chorizo was of good quality, tougher on the outside than in and comforting to eat.
|Chorizo in cider|
Shortly afterwards the Albondigas arrived, Spanish meatballs if you're unfamiliar, thankfully served in even portions. I always find it annoying that a Spanish restaurant would serve these in an uneven portion (say three meatballs) when the dish is meant to be shared! The meatballs were great, my only criticism is that there could have been a bit more sauce. They were vastly more flavoursome and moist than the ones served to me in Kasbah.
|Albondigas - Spanish Meatballs|
The patatas bravas were served at the same time and it was a much bigger portion than I was expecting! I don't think I've ever had a bigger portion and I've eaten at quite a few tapas joints in my time. Again my only criticism is that there could have had more sauce, the tomato sauce had a bit of a spicy kick, much better than the watered down tomato bases I've been subjected to before.
|ALL the Patatas Bravas|
Just as we were polishing off the meatballs the chicken with cumin and paprika dish arrived. We had chosen this dish over the other chicken dish on the menu as that one was noted as served with potatoes, as we were already going to order patatas bravas we steered clear... as you can see this one too was served with potatoes! Despite the overload of potatoes on our table they were pretty good and the aioli served with them was excellent, I should have requested more.
|Chicken with cumin and paprika|
Our last dish was the pork croquettes. They were incredibly rich and creamy inside with strong flavours of pork, the sauce served with it helped calm and fuse these flavours together a little more elegantly.
The service is brilliant, friendly and personalised, just what you would expect from a family run business. It's clear to see that they have regulars for food or for drink and are doing well despite being slightly out of the hubbub of Chapel Allerton centre.
They do all the favourites well, they've done them time and time again so you'd expect so. The specials board is a little more flashier, and a little more cashier (sorry) I'd definitely pick a few different items on my next visit. They've been around for quite a few years now and I hope they continue to do what they do so well for many more years to come.