Another school year ended on 17th July, as you can imagine this is always a time to celebrate for any teacher. Apart from that, my other cause to celebrate was the decision to teach high school part-time from September, after working my backside off for 14 years. So with this in mind a slap up meal was called for!!
I visited Zucco when it opened last year, where between myself and my dining companion we devoured seven plates for Sunday lunch. I remember quite clearly talking about it very positively, and if I’d been a betting person could’ve put money on Zucco becoming a favourite haunt amongst food lovers. Since then it’s developed a very popular following, people have fallen in love with the humble simplicity of their food and use of ingredients.
Arriving on a warm Friday evening, bang on 7pm for our booking, it was no surprise to see the place already starting to fill up. Zucco’s menu is ideal for sharing with a plethora of dishes to choose from, we decided to pick six dishes to share; two fish, two meat and two veg.
A prosecco cocktail was ordered which was lovely and light, the cube of sugar floating and fizzing gently around the glass provided our entertainment.
There are many wonderful sounding dishes on the menu it’s hard to leave any behind, so after some helpful advise we were happy to have our order taken. Our server said the two fish would be our first course, the meat and veg would arrive together. That worked for us, and I’m sure for the kitchen too. I remember last time as Zucco’s was still in its infancy, service from the kitchen was a tad slow and a little haphazard, as dishes were brought over once cooked without much order.
Our first course showed us the promise of good things to come, with simplicity in presentation which you don’t often see in these parts. This was the other half’s first experience with soft shell crab and it didn’t disappoint. Beautifully cooked sweet crab meat with a giving exterior, coated in the thinnest of batters lending itself perfectly to be eaten whole. Lovely dish.
I ate Fritto Misto last time and nearly fall for it every time I see it on a menu, so it wasn’t a surprise when I chose it again. It’s a highly enjoyed dish where you literally just dive in, grab something along with a swipe of aioli. My selection of mixed fried seafood included lightly battered squid, whitefish, whitebait and a prawn. The only mini slight gripe was the squid, which in my opinion would have benefitted from being taken out of the fryer a tad sooner, allowing the squid to have more give in it’s texture. Apart from that the rest was wolfed down without much hesitation, lightly crisp, sweet prawn and juicy fish and whitebait. With a quick squeeze of lemon I’m easily pleased.
After a little break in between courses, our meat and veg dishes were brought over. Even though the chicken was really the other half’s dish, I managed to snaffle some myself, with permission of course! The chicken itself was very moist and had a texture like it had been poached or sous-vide, then griddled forming light charring marks. Topped with thin slithers of chilli and garlic, it was pleasant, and even though I can appreciate the subtleties of the dish, it could have had more welly!
I selected the beef, another beautifully simple dish with braised meat woven through wide strips of pappardelle pasta. The beef was fantastic with a lovingly soft, giving texture and lots of flavour, whilst the pappardelle was al dente and silky. A great dish!
Our accompaniments came in the form of zucchini and mushrooms, both of these were winners and a much loved part of the meal. I’d read much about deep fried zucchini from fellow food lover Elizabeth Dix (Whip Until Fluffy) fame, so this gave me the green light to my choice. Saying that, what did I think to it? Well, the zucchini fries were light, thinly coated in batter and with a pinch of salt, they’d make me happy any day of the week! Whilst the mushrooms had a very savoury meatiness! Possessing a fab crust and punchy flavours to boot! From the first mouthful, the other half who tends to be a lot more reserved in expressing feelings towards food until asked, quite openly gushed at how good it tasted!
I was pretty much full now, but the other half had spotted the Panna cotta, probably his go to Italian dessert. It arrived, not in the classic style of turned out on the plate, which allows the wobble factor to be tested out, but instead in a small glass topped with berries and sauce.
Comments included: creamy and full of vanilla (very evident on closer inspection). Even though he prefers Panna cotta to be served alone without anything else, the fruits did bring a component of sharpness to the dish to cut through it’s creamy richness. I personally think they should be served with something exactly for this purpose. But we can agree to disagree!
I love the simplicity of the drinks menu at Zucco, going for a classic list of Italian cocktails, the other half went for the Negroni next, he’d never had one before so fancied trying one. Unbeknownst to him, only because he’d never paid attention to the ingredients it was quite a bitter drink. Too bitter for him, so I gladly offered my services and took it off his hands instead!
The total cost of our meal with drinks was £59.40, without tip.
More than a year on and I think Zucco is still one of the best places to eat out in Leeds at the moment, be it lunch or dinner. Yes, it’s not the cheapest, but the quality of the food and service makes the difference for me.
Food: Ingredients cooked simply and well. Lots of choice and hard not to choose lots!
Service: Much improvement in a smoother delivery from the kitchen. Knowledgable and helpful staff, unfussy and efficient.
Atmosphere: A popular place which generates a lovely busy ambience.Zucco 603 Meanwood Road Leeds LS6 4AY 0113 2249679 http://zucco.co.uk