When I think of food in Ilkley, images of Lishman’s the butchers and Michelin starred The Box Tree restaurant spring to mind. So last night I ventured out to try recently opened Tapas restaurant La Casita, opened by chef Simon Miller, Oliver Renton and Ben Riley. Their chef Simon Miller has reached the quarter finals of Masterchef the Professionals, and had decent credentials from working at The Box Tree and The Fleece in Otley, amongst others.
The restaurant itself is housed on the upper level of the Victorian Arcade, with an outside dining area and bar the first thing you see on the mezzanine level.
The main restaurant has two adjoining rooms, and even though wasn’t the biggest of spaces it didn’t feel cramped.
There was a decent range of wines at fairly reasonable prices on their list, so I chose a New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£21) which I found crisp, zingy with a decent amount of acidity to cut through any richness in our food.
The menu is broken down into Aperitivos (£1.80 – £8.50), Vegetariano (£4.20 – £8.50), Carne (£5.50 – £15.50), Pescados (£6 – £8.50) and a Charcuterie platter selection (£11.50).
Before the meal I’d compared the menu to, in my opinion, arguably the best tapas restaurant in Leeds at the moment Ambiente. In terms of price, dishes tend to be pricier at La Casita than Ambiente, and having the opportunity to eat at both I’d be able to compare the food and see if it warranted this.
The waiter suggested ordering five dishes to share, but we opted for four. I did find the waitress a little pushy when ordering, as she tried to get us to order the John Dory special as well, but we stuck to our guns.
Having travelled through Northern and Southern Spain over the years I think I’ve a good knowledge of tapas, in particular the classics, so I purposefully chose the Tortilla and Albondigas which are good standards that can be compared.
After ordering the food arrived after 30 mins, and even though they arrived together, I personally feel this is TOO long. What do you reckon?
Everything did look great though, the two classic dishes Tortilla and Albondigas, I’d say I liked them but I’ve certainly had much better elsewhere. The Tortilla had ‘OK’ flavour and needed more seasoning, the best ones are just set in the centre with more give, this didn’t hit the mark for me in that respect. The garlic aioli that accompanied it was very good though and brought the dish to life.
The meatballs at £6 a pop, I found were overpriced, so I’d hoped the food itself would meet the demands of its price tag. On flavour the meatballs had a smoky meatiness, but were a little dense and I didn’t get any spice whatsoever in the tomato sauce sadly.
The Bacalao dish I enjoyed, but if I hadn’t known it was Bacalao I wouldn’t have guessed. The firm texture was apparent, but the saltiness I’d expected wasn’t. I even asked the waiter to check it was and where it was from, it was a little disconcerting he didn’t know himself and kept asking the kitchen! The spiced lentils and tomato gave the dish extra texture and flavour which I liked, but to say the bit I liked most was the accompaniment isn’t the best, is it?
Our last dish of Ox cheeks was definitely the stand out dish of the evening and was dreamy. Completely melt in the mouth and zero effort was needed to eat these bad boys. Cooked in a wonderfully rich and unctuous red wine sauce.
Neither of us felt the need for a fifth dish or even a dessert, I did have a nosey at the menu though. I found it a little odd they only had a selection of parfait. Yes, there may be seven different varieties, but of the same thing. Maybe they should be pushing the boat out a little and have more options to choose from, and I don’t mean more parfait either.
I found service a little hit and miss, they were friendly, but at times slow. With the importance of provenance of ingredients I also felt that staff should know more about the dishes and where the main ingredients come from.
Overall I’m probably being ultra picky with some of my views, but for the price of the dishes I feel I need to be, especially when there are very good alternatives closer to home.
Food: Some dishes had lovely parts to them, but overall needs to be more consistent in flavours and a little overpriced.
Service: Hit and miss, a little slow at times, staff need more knowledge of the dishes, such as provenance of their ingredients. Generally friendly and welcoming.
Atmosphere: There was a pleasantly warm atmosphere, the restaurant is set in a lovely beautiful Victorian arcade.DISCLAIMER: I had been invited to go to write an honest, unbiased review based on my experience. The meal was 50% complimentary. La Casita http://www.lacasitailkley.co.uk