Ricci’s opened around a similar time that other Tapas restaurants in Leeds open such as Iberica and La Rambla. They’re all located on the same street (ish) in Leeds city centre and they’re all vying for your attention. Iberica already has a reputation in London and Manchester and so Leeds was a natural progression for them, La Rambla is the first of its kind therefore it had a bit of work to do on building its reputation. Ricci’s brings with it the reputation it has founded in Halifax. I don’t know many people who go out in to Halifax for a night out or chose it as an evening meal destination, there are a couple of people however who I know who have been (due to having friends or family in Halifax) who sing it’s praises. So although small Ricci’s does have a reputation to uphold that should bring in some new clientele in Leeds on the back of this.
We booked a table for our anniversary, which this year fell on a Wednesday. Although Leeds it advertised as a 24 hour, 7 day a week, 365 day a year city during the week it’s still fairly quiet in some restaurants and bars. Ricci’s and it’s associate 53 Degrees North is no exception, we were the only customers at 6pm and only 2 more tables joined until we left around 7.30pm.
The décor, it’s not to my taste. Another’s description was that it looked ‘dead classy’ I won’t go further down this line as the snob within me may start to raise its ugly head.
Regardless of appearances (because this is not the be all and end all, I have been to some pretty shocking looking places and had fantastic food) what was the food like?
The food menu – initially confusing, is it Spanish Tapas or it is Italian Cichetti? I *think* it’s both with some other dishes thrown in there for good measure.
The wine menu – much smaller than other local tapas restaurants and with only four options for a glass of red (it’s Wednesday let’s not get too heavy and someone has to drive home) it was rather uninspiring, of course this is just my opinion. The wine menu also doesn’t keep on theme and diverts away from Spanish and Italian to French and Australian wine also, again just pointing this out not criticising.
So what did we order? The waitress helpfully/unhelpfully (you decide) told us that 6 dishes would suffice (because clearly we looked like Tapas novices – sorry I’m being mean now) between us. We ordered some olives with our wine (we went for a large glass of merlot as I didn’t care for a glass of pinot noir or Luigi Leondardo Sangiovese).
The olives were the most multi-coloured batch I’ve ever been served. To cut to the point we didn’t like them, by the end of the meal most of them remained and we told the waitress to take them away with our other dishes as we simply weren’t ‘fond’. We enquired as to whether they were out of a jar (as they didn’t taste particularly fresh) and we were told “they’re imported from Spain and marinated”. Not really answering our question.
We’d almost made up our mind on our menu choices but decided to seek further advice, we asked the waitress what she would recommend (I’m not trying to trip anyone up but this is a good way to test the staff knowledge on the food). We were then told what the most popular items on the menu were, not really what we were asking. We pressed a little harder and asked her what the cauliflower dish was like as we’d had a similar cauliflower dish at another tapas restaurant so was therefore cautious. We were then told that we shouldn’t compare Ricci’s to any other tapas restaurant as it was impossible to do so as they were just ‘different’. How? She didn’t explain. We were then told that the cauliflower was more like an onion bhaji, but y’know cauliflower. Anything deep fried gets my vote and so we added it to the list.
As is with the case with most tapas restaurants food is brought to the table as and when it is ready, although they usually follow some sort sequence with cold meats generally brought out first and patatas bravas usually makes an early appearance too.
The first dish we received was the Italian and Spanish cured meats. The charcuterie comes with celeriac remoulade and picos de pan, although the celeriac remoulade was more reminiscent of wholegrain mustard coleslaw. There was nothing awe inspiring about the meats, they were typical run of the mill (probably what I could have bought in Sainsbury’s for cheaper) and no description of them was given when they were presented to our table leaving us to guess for ourselves.
Next to meet our table was the mini hot chorizo cooked in a El Gaitero Cider. When it first arrived I looked at it dubiously as the sauce appeared to be of an odd consistency and slightly paler in colour than I am normally accustomed to seeing, perhaps this was the cider’s contribution? Either was I did enjoy the chorizo, it was more cooking chorizo that was used rather than a longer stood smoked chorizo.
Following the chorizo came the previously discussed spice cauliflower fritters served on a large bed of tomato and lemon chutney. They were in deed better than the cauliflower that we had eaten at previous tapas restaurant; they contained more flavour and were alike to onion bhajis or perhaps just tempura. I didn’t pick up too much of the spice that was advertised and the chutney was a welcome addition although perhaps just a little too much in quantity compared to the cauliflower.
Successive to the cauliflower was the crisp blue cheese gnocchi accompanied by marinated beetroots, blue valdeon cheese, chargrilled broccoli and toasted pinenuts. D really like this dish although found the blue cheese a little overpowering, I am a fan of blue cheese and thought it was balanced well with only a light scattering.
Our second to last tapas dish was the slow roasted Iberico suckling pig a splash out at £9 a dish. I’m not sure I see the appeal of suckling pig and the whole time I keep imagining I am eating the cutest little piglet, D didn’t see the appeal either and declared he thought he was in fact ‘going off’ pork altogether until I reminded him of the pork I cooked for Sunday dinner a few weeks back that he keep nibbling at despite being full to the rafters. Neither of us was keen on the skin/crackling and for the money I wish we’d had ordered two cheaper more substantial options.
The last dish to arrive was the skin-on French fries (I know even France gets a look in on this menu!) served with a pot of bright salsa brava. In the absence of patatas bravas (why would you not put these on the menu they’re so easy to make?!?!!) my potato choice was skin on fries or wedges, as the fries came with salsa brava I thought this would be the closest on theme option I could make. I wasn’t expecting them to be our last dish, I doubt they take long to make and I would have preferred to have had them accompanying the rest of my dishes. The almost luminous brava was no flavour and all spice and so we requested a pot of aioli to prevent a rose blush appearing on my face from the heat. The aioli was thin and incredibly infused with garlic, I found myself wishing I just had mayo instead… a crime really.
D had spied gelato on the menu and so we decided to order dessert to share (read Claire has a taste and D consumes the remaining). The waitress brought us a separate menu with the flavours of gelato and sorbetti listed explaining that people order some very odd combinations; we became one of these people when we ordered mango sorbet and pistachio and mint chocolate chip gelato. We both agreed that gelato just doesn’t taste the same in England as it does in Italy and Croatia (more specifically Istria with its Italian heritage), sadly most of the gelato we’ve had in England just tastes like ice cream (I promise you there is a difference).
We had to dash at the end of the meal in order to catch our train and Daniel went to the waitress to pay (I understand she would normally bring the bill and the card machine to your table), he was asked if he wanted to pay the optional service charge and was made to feel bad when he declined for this to be added to the card bill (we normally prefer to pay this in cash so that the waiting staff definitely get the money and not the restaurant owners, you just don’t know these days where it goes).
I’ve spoken to a friend about our experience and her experience in the Halifax branch was completely different, bustling with atmosphere and a waiter who knew everything about the menu (even where the produce was sourced in Spain and Italy) gave them lots of recommendations including what went well with their own choices.
Have you been to Ricci’s in Leeds? Have you visited their place in Halifax too? What did you think?