Bilboa bar, Leeds

We are spoilt for choice with tapas in Leeds but Bilboa should not be overlooked! I came here with a large group of women and the service was fantastic. They were the perfect combination of seamless efficiency and friendly attentiveness. We were welcomed by a friendly member of staff who guided us to our table and talked through the menus, making recommendations.

The menu has the classics on there that you want such as spanish omelette as well as different things t make them stand out, such as ox cheek in rioja. I went for the ox cheek, a special of scallops with black pudding and some chorizo in cider. Great flavours, decent portions and fast service. Happy customer!

The gin selection was good, with some of my favourite spanish gins including Gin Mare and Nordes. A gin and tonic was a little pricey at £10.50 but my glass was full and the garnish was almost perfect, missing an olive in the Gin Mare.

The waiters glided in and out of sight as and when needed and nobody seemed to be waiting long for anything, pretty impressive considering the size of our group. More impressive was the fact that they sorted us all out with individual bills and again this was done with no fuss in an efficient manner.

Great place, great food, great service, great gin list. I shall be back.

Atmosphere 9/10
Quality 8.5/10
Service 10/10
Value 8/10
Unique 8/10
Overall 8.5/10

Pintura, Leeds (Gluten Free friendly)

I have to admit that this is my third visit to Pintura and I love it more and more each time I go! This time was a little different as I wanted to see how easy it is to dine out when you are gluten free. Luckily I am gluten free at the moment by choice and not by necessity, but while I am doing it, I want to experience it fully. All I can say is that if everywhere is as helpful as Pintura was then we are getting it right as gluten free friendly society.

When the server had finished talking through the menu, I asked her which options were gluten free. She asked me if I was gluten free or Coeliac. Big tick. I responded and she replied saying that she would just check with the chef. Moments later, she comes back with my menu, altered to show what I can and can’t have. I was delighted to see that I could still have bread and dessert as I had completely written those off! I could even have cake!

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So, on to the food. We went for the garlic and tomato bread, Chorizo, Sirloin steak and fries, Marinated prawns and a pork special. The bread was delicious and you couldn’t tell any difference with it being gluten free bread. I said so at the time to my husband who replied saying he had forgotten that it was gluten free. The chorizo was gorgeous, it had a powerful taste without being overpoweringly strong and acidic like it can be. The texture was nice and soft, a good quality Chorizo. The steak was melt in your mouth and so tasty. My only criticism of this dish was that it came with fries and mustard but nothing to dip the fries in. Luckily I had alioli left over from the prawns. Also I would have liked some more fries as there wasn’t much when sharing between two. The prawns were beautifully fat and juicy, really tasty. I couldn’t taste any garlic in the alioli and would have liked it to be stronger, but that’s my personal preference. The pork trio special was a lovely treat. It came with steak, fillet and a rib, with a celeriac puree accompaniment and some sort of jus type thing. It also came with a separate tiny little crunchy apple, like a very mini toffee apple. Well that just made the evening for me! My only criticism of the special is that it’s pretty hard to share a small rib. Then came the desserts, chocolate mousse and Spanish almond cake, gluten free cake! The desserts were delicious, I didn’t want the cake to end. I’ve had the mousse before and it is deliciously rich and I love the way that it’s presented.

You can’t talk about Pintura without talking about gin. Their gin list is immense. I think it’s best list I’ve ever seen outside of the gin festival brochure. In fact I’m sure it is. A fabulous mix of local and international gins. I love the way that they actually give you a brief description of the gins, rather than just listing the names. They also offer some favourite gin and tonic combinations and of course they are all served with premium tonic, in a decent glass, with a garnish. Another big attraction for Pintura is the service. The staff are just so nice! I have thought this each time I’ve visited. A server came over to see if we needed more drinks. I asked for a Slingsby Rhubarb which is a favourite. The lady told me how she likes to drink it and offered to have one made up for me. I accepted the offer and let me tell you, Slingsby rhubarb with Double Dutch cucumber and melon is an absolute dream!

The other thing that I have yet to mention is the decor. Pintura is just a really lovely place to be. The entire place has a relaxed vibe, particularly the gin bar downstairs. They have managed a unique combination of modern, trendy, urban, relaxed and something almost vintage. I even loved the toilet!

I would urge anyone to go. It makes a fantastic date night but also somewhere to relax with friends and family. I can’t wait for my next trip, I have several gins left to try!

Atmosphere 10/10
Quality 10/10
Service 10/10
Value 9/10
Unique 10/10
Overall 9.99/10

(I really want to give it full marks but there were just a couple of teeny tiny little tweaks required. My full marks are hard to come by!)

 

Mr P’s Curious Tavern – York, August 2016

There are not many places that I visit and think, I wish I owned this. In fact, off the top of my head I can count three. Mr P’s Curious Tavern is one of them. I walk through the door and I see cute and cosy interior, a man carving from a Jamon leg and a gin bar. I’m home! I love the details in the venue, down to the paper coasters, the stack of old books on the bar and the beautiful gin glasses. It wasn’t until I sat down and saw the menu that I realised this was an Andrew Pern venture, and then I got really excited!

The decor is cosy and homely but with a trendy twist. The small bar area downstairs is a place where you could spend hours on a chilly winter afternoon. The atmosphere provides a peaceful escape from the busy streets of York in any weather, however I see this little diamond glittering in the winter.

I dropped in on a Saturday lunchtime with friends, originally just looking for a good gin, but became sucked in by the tempting menu. We decided to have a couple of dishes each, it’s not the cheapest of menus. I had the Hand-dived Scallop, Scrumpy Reduction, Celeriac, Fresh Black Truffle and Steak Tartare, Smoked Bacon & ‘HP Ripple’ Ice Cream, Fried Bread ‘Sprinkles’. It took me a while to decide as everything sounded tempting and limiting my decision to two dishes was no easy task. Slightly easier though, than choosing from the extensive Gin list! I opted for a Herno Old Tom, beautiful.

The service was slow, despite it not being ridiculously busy. The waiter explained the tapas system where dishes are brought out as they are ready, so we expected that we would not all be eating at the same time and we were okay with this. At least we thought we were. There were a couple of occasions where despite knowing the system, we still checked that certain dishes were coming, as the wait seemed to drag on longer than we expected. We waited so long for my friend’s final dish that the rest of us asked for the bill and my friend considered cancelling it so that we could all leave. We chased it up and waited another ten minutes before the dish arrived and my friend had to eat alone while we waited. Not a great experience. On saying that, they did take the cost of the last dish off the bill. I thought this element of their customer service was spot on. We timed it quite badly as the waiters that served us were new to the job and didn’t know the menu well at all. I would have preferred all waiting staff to be better briefed and to have experienced the menu. A man working behind the bar, however, seemed very knowledgeable and passionate about the bar products. A rare but necessary element of a thriving bar.

There is no doubt that the food is good quality and the menu is fairly unique. The presentation is immaculate and each dish was welcomed by my party with oohs and ahhhs. In terms of value for money, it depends how you do it I think. I felt that I had paid a lot of money, experienced some beautiful food but left hungry. My scallop dish, for example, tasted beautiful but cost £9.50 for two scallops. Having eaten in many Michelin starred restaurants, I’m used to small portions, however I’ve never left a tasting menu hungry. Mr P’s do offer a tasting menu and I think perhaps this is the way to go. At least go when you can afford to splash out a bit and get a few dishes each to fill up on. In terms of a quick lunch, I would opt for something cheaper and more filling, like the charcuterie boards with bread.

Atmosphere 9/10
Quality 8/10
Service 5/10
Value 7.5/10
Unique 9/10
Overall 8/10

What would I change?
Not much really is my answer.
Ensure that the staff have tried each dish on the menu so that they can recommend effectively. Staff passion encourages customer passion
Improve speed of service and make sure that waiting staff communicate efficiently between the kitchen and the customer, chasing up dishes and checking that the customer is informed.

Would I return?….Yes. Big fat yes. The place is quite new and the staff are getting to grips with it all. Once the staff are in a position to guide customers and recommend dishes that suit their budget and time allowance, I struggle to think how a customer could leave here unhappy. Personally, I can’t wait to return.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, you can no longer go in Mr P’s curious tavern for just a drink, due to their license. I’m sure you could just get a snack, sharing board or tapas style dish to make up for the food bit. It’s a bit disappointing if you wanted to pop in for a decent Gin.

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