Pintura: Painting A New Scene In Tapas
Not content with owning half of Call Lane and one of the best restaurants in Trinity, the brains and money behind Jake’s Bar, Neon Cactus and Cielo Blanco have now opened the stunning Basque tapas restaurant in Leeds that is Pintura. It was with great excitement and anticipation that I went for a meal, and I’m happy to say that it wasn’t for naught.
Upon arrival I headed down the basement stairs to the gin bar to wait for my friend. The atmosphere in the bar was extremely pleasant, perfect for relaxing prior to your meal. The beautiful copper bar is difficult to resist sitting at, although there are tables where you can sit and enjoy some privacy if you desire.
I went for a palate-cleansing “Perfect Serve” gin and tonic, the curious prefix as explained by the bartender, Pete, meaning that each of the gins was uniquely paired with a garnish which emphasised the botanicals within the gin itself, bringing out those subtle floral flavours more strongly. This could be the elderflower tonic and mint I had with the Botanist Gin, or the cinnamon, juniper berries and pink peppercorns with the Opihr my friend had. There are thirty different kinds to choose from, including their own Portobello Road. You don’t have to limit yourselves to gin, as the unique cocktail list is truly amazing both on the eye and on the tongue, my personal favourite being La Marianita, a beautiful blend of sweet vermouth, gin, Campari and in house-made olive bitters.
Heading back upstairs, the atmosphere was so different to the bar that it was hard to believe that we were in the same building, and not actually in the Basque country. The ground and first floor of the restaurant has an intriguing dichotomy, with the more traditional tapas restaurant option to sit at the bar where you can watch all the food being prepared in the open kitchen alongside the more intimate and private experience in the plush, red leather booths around the edge. Don’t worry though, if you do want a more private and quiet dining experience the mezzanine on the top floor delivers just that, quiet tranquil and well away from the noise of the kitchen and lower floors.
To start the meal, my friend and I opted for a selection of the picotears, small nibbles to whet your appetite while you look over the menu. The terrine de fois gras was truly awe inspiring – a beautifully smooth and immensely flavourful ethically sourced foie gras served with pedro ximinez sherry compote which compliments the terrine perfectly, a mix that sent my taste buds into blissful ecstasy. The pan de tomate, a traditional Spanish classic, was a delight as well, crunchy toast covered in a surprisingly sweet tomato sauce, with just the right amount of garlic. A beautiful course that was light enough to leave you with plenty of room for the cured meats and tapas but flavourful enough to get you really excited about what was to come.
Of the cured meats and cheeses we opted only for the jamon iberico de belotta, a Spanish delicacy of black pig fed solely on acorns and then cured for 2 years. This leaves the meat with a surprisingly sweet taste; served at room temperature and cut wafer thin the fat melts in your mouth. If you’ve never tried it before I would definitely recommend.
We opted for a bottle of wine to accompany the tapas and found ourselves spoilt for choice, the menu boasting a huge selection of both white and red wine from Spain and across the world. We went for the Louis Allegre rioja tint and I must say I can’t understand why only two places in the UK serve it, the flavour was incredibly light but with deep notes of red fruits such as raspberries and cherries alongside subtle hints of liquorice.
Of the tapas itself words cannot do it justice, though I will endeavour to do my best. Pintura’s is a wide selection of tapas with a blend of more commonly known dishes such as patatas bravas and gambas pil pil as well as some dishes a little more unheard of. We went for the albondigas, 50% veal and 50% pork meatballs doused in a tomato and garlic sauce with subtle chilli notes giving it a very pleasant tingle on the tongue. Alongside this we had the morcilla, a traditional Spanish style black pudding served on a bed of tomato and chilli sauce with a deep fried duck egg. This proved our favourite dish of the night, the blend of the earthy flavours of the black pudding and the gentle spice of the chilli and the duck egg providing a nice subtle flavour and a beautiful contrast of textures. Another highlight was the chorizo con cidre, a delightful dish which balances the spiciness in the chorizo with the not overpowering sweetness of the cider sauce.
When we finally finished the six plates of tapas we opted for a selection of four desserts. Those that we chose were mainly traditional Basque dishes such as the torrijas – a brioche and sugar pudding with subtle hints of nutmeg and an incredible cordelo ice cream. Of the desserts my hands down favourite was the tarta de quesa, cheesecake with raisins soaked in pedro ximinez sherry; the contrast between the flavours was wondrous. Another standout was the chocolate mousse made with 72% dark chocolate and covered in crumbled chocolate brownie served in a small flowerpot. However, if you’d prefer a lighter option such as the milhojas, the Basque version of mille-feuille, you’ve that too; layers of light pastry and vanilla cream a perfect little sweet treat to finish your meal on.
To put it shortly there aren’t enough superlatives to describe this new restaurant, with its vibrant atmosphere and its brilliant food. Though what more could I have expected from a restaurant whose name literally translates to ‘painting’?