ambiente

Ambiente review: Leeds best tapas restaurant raises the game once again

Friday 21st Apr 2023 |

The Leeds dining scene is notoriously fickle and riddled with uncertainty. Any restaurant that makes it past the five-year mark deserves a round of applause. To see Ambiente reach its eleventh year with its strongest offering to date is impressive and its new spring/summer menu has only cemented its status as the city’s best tapas joint.

Perched on the edge of the River Aire opposite Brewery Wharf, the restaurant itself has an inviting rustic style, with warm woods and exposed brick. The walls are adorned with eye-catching posters, many featuring some of Spain’s most iconic sherry brands. It’s the first of many signs that this place is big on sherry. More on that later.

ambiente

The tapas menu, whilst not especially overwhelming, is packed with temptation and so choosing dishes can take some time. With that in mind, we order some sangria and nibbles to help us along. The Wheel of Tapas along with some bread and oil was just right for the three of us.

ambiente

Featuring Manchego cheese with quince, Serrano ham and white anchovy fillets all served on delicious pan Catalán, everything here is top quality and authentic. The Perelló Gordal olives here are also great.

As with many tapas restaurants, the plates come out as and when they’re ready. First up came the honey and chipotle glazed chicken and chorizo kebab served with pickled red cabbage (Brocheta de Pollo y Chorizo con Miel). The bold and warming flavours of the spices present are balanced perfectly with the sweetness of the pickled cabbage.

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The Flat iron steak served with corn purée, Ambiente BBQ sauce and jalapeño pesto (Bistec con Puré de Maíz) was another excellent dish. The jalapeño pesto caught my eye on the menu and this did not disappoint. If they sold jars of this stuff, I’d happily buy it by the truckload.

Caramelised chorizo and potato (Chorizo y Patatas) might well be a tried and tested tapas classic, but here it’s elevated to greatness with Ambiente’s secret recipe. It’s a similar story with the beef and pork meatballs (Albóndigas con Tomate) which happen to be one of my favourite dishes here.

Cooked in a smoky chorizo and tomato stew, they’re deliciously rich and would make a cracking main course. These dishes paired especially well with the Beronia Reserva 2014 Rioja, a solid if not breath-taking red with notes of black fruit and chocolate.

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The Tempura tiger prawns are plump, juicy and sweet, served with a fragrant aioli dip. Another repeat order that always does the business. The only dish we wouldn’t return to was the Crispy beer-braised belly pork tossed in pimento and rock salt (Chicharrón). Whilst by no means bad, it didn’t live up to its mouth-watering description.

The Sweetcorn and jalapeño croquette with Ambiente dirty cheese sauce (Croqueta de Maíz Dulce y Jalapeño) on the other hand was just as good as it sounds and didn’t last long on the plate.

Our last savoury dish took so long to arrive, we assumed it had been forgotten and began looking at desserts. The lightly battered goats’ cheese, drizzled with honey and served with braised fennel and beetroot crisps (Queso de Cabra) did finally arrive and was another menu highlight. Well worth the extra calories.

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We ended with a trio of desserts which were all incredible. I took on the sherry and raisin ice cream, which I’ve been hooked on since last year. The creamy Yorvale vanilla ice cream is sprinkled with sherry-infused raisins and served with a large shot of PX sherry. Mind blowing.

I don’t recall sherry being a thing back in 2012, but they’ve definitely converted me. Prior to visiting last year, sherry to me was something grans drank at Christmas. I was wrong.

The millionaire’s chocolate brownie was also fantastic, but we all agreed the Spanish almond cake had the edge. Drizzled with orange and vanilla syrup and served with fresh raspberries and whipped cream, it’s an essential pick for anyone with a sweet tooth and a love of almonds.

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Final verdict

Ambiente is still by far the best place to enjoy tapas in Leeds. The dishes mix classic recipes with inventive and bold new flavours that you won’t find elsewhere and at £156 for three people, including wine, sangria and desserts, it’s not badly priced.

Service was a little off this time round, however. We had to keep asking for things throughout the evening and the birthday cake I requested for our table on two occasions when booking was forgotten. That said, this didn’t stop us from having a memorable evening with some of the best food you’ll find in Yorkshire.

Go seek them out and don’t sleep on that sherry menu.

Ambiente, 36-38 The Calls, Leeds, LS2 7EW

Review and photography by Fletch