Invited a few months back to attend the launch of La Casita, a new independent Spanish tapas bar in Ilkley. I had to reject due to another event I had planned for that evening but also due to the media crazed invite that I received to the launch itself... Harry Potter actors, and the whole shebang. No thank you.
The chef proprietor is Simon Miller, a chef from numerous highly acclaimed establishments including The Fleece in Otley, Piazza by Anthony in Leeds and Ilkley's Michelin-starred restaurant The Box Tree which is just round the corner.
Invited to come back to sample the menu with a complimentary two tapas dishes and two glasses of wine, I had booked to go early next month. However, unexpectedly I ended up jumping on the back of a drop out invite with my friend Diane, also a food blogger (her blog is here) who had booked to go last Wednesday.
Entering the quaint little arcade, we walked up the stairs on to a mezzanine level to see some seating outside and the door to the restaurant. We were greeted at the bar and led to a table inside a room that looked like it could have once been an art gallery in its former life. However now this room was quite dingy, low lighting and with musky red walls to match.
Greeted by the drinks menu, we decided to share a bottle of white wine. I am usually a red kind of girl, but when a good bottle of white is chosen I can be swayed. Diane chose the New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc priced at £21.
The tapas menu consisted of five main sections with aperitivos, vegetariano, carne, pescados and a charcuterie selection. A mixture of traditional tapas dishes were there but also some modern takes on the classics.
Recommended to have five tapas dishes between the two of us, we opted for four. Diane chose the Tortillas de Patatas (Spanish tortilla with garlic aioli £5.00) and the Albóndigas al Estilo Español (meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce £6.00). Seeing there were two standard dishes gone for I went to try a few new ones and picked the Carrillada en Cocción Lenta (ox cheeks slow cooked in red wine £6.80) and the Bacalao Laminado (flaked cod with spiced lentils £7.00).
We ordered our four dishes and the waitress asked if we wanted a few more dishes and why we didn't want to try their special of the day which was John Dory with a fennel salad. We stuck to our four dishes and then the wait set in.
Gazing around the restaurant there were parties of all ages and sizes, however it was not busy as such. After about 20 minutes of waiting the hangry pangs set in and we were both wondering where our food was. After 30 minutes the dishes arrived and we were pleasantly relieved.
First to grace our tables were the Albóndigas al Estilo Español and the Carrillada en Cocción Lenta. The dishes were brimming and full and very generous for tapas portions.
There were four meatballs in total topped with a fresh tomato sauce on top. The meatballs were firm and had a good consistency, however we struggled to find the smokiness that you would usually expect from them. The spice in the tomato sauce was also absent but this was still a very nice dish to eat.
Next up was the dish I had been most looking forward to and boy did it not disappoint! Melt in the mouth chunks of slow cooked ox cheeks in a delicious red wine reduction. These were cooked very well and the flavour was very warming and rich. This was the star of the tapas show!
Along came the Bacalao Laminado, which was served almost as a salad with a portion of what I think was a mixture of puy and green spiced lentils, topped with flaked cod, tomatoes and salad leaves. The lentils were very good and were not overcooked. The flaked cod lacked the "salt cod" flavour we were after. Asking the waiter if it was salt cod he had to go and check with the chef but then came back to tell us that it was. This was a very nice dish but I feel it was mainly due to the wow factor of the lentils.
And finally, last but not least we have the Tortilla de Patatas. A wedge of Spanish omelette with potato inside served with garlic aioli and a salad garnish. The tortilla itself was quite stodgy and not as fluffy or light as I have tasted in other tapas restaurants. The garlic aioli to match it was quite pungent but in a good way with a flavour that was not too overpowering but complimented the the light centrepiece.
Not feeling the need for dessert, we had a look at the menu on offer to find one stand out dish... avialable in seven different variations! Parfait was the dessert of choice and priced at £2 a slice. We were both slightly confused by this and puzzled as to why such a restrictive dessert menu.
This was a nice treat to have tapas and also to visit Ilkley, however the prices compared to other tapas favourites in Leeds (like Ambiente and El Bareto) are softer on the wallet and excel in some places were La Casita failed to match.
The service was quite slow and the staff not knowing the ingredients to dishes and being overly interested in wanting us to order more food and drinks which for me is quite off putting.
Our meal for a bottle of wine and four tapas dishes came to £42, however with the complimentary 2 glasses of wine and two tapas dishes this came to £21.
Disclaimer: This meal was 50% complimentary, however all the views within this review are my own honest opinions.