Another new opening in Leeds, this time a tapas-style bar/restaurant situated in the Calls part of the city. Housed in the building that was previously River Plate, the owners of Ambiente have titivated the previously quite tired restaurant, put up a few Spanish posters and hey presto, we have a tapas joint that to be fair, does looks the part.
With a sister restaurant in nearby York, Ambiente comes highly recommended by the usually reliable Trip Advisor and as it’s been open a few weeks we thought we’d try it out for a light midweek dinner.
We booked a table only to be confronted by a quite empty restaurant at 7.15, but people came in dribs and drabs after then until it was about half full. Leeds already has some perfectly acceptable tapas places already – Sandinista, La Tasca, Azucar, Dos Amigos and Viva Cuba who, in their own way, are all good enough for our needs. So any new place has to be delivering over and above what we have already to stand any chance.
And does Ambiente do this? Sadly no. The menu reads like a beginner’s guide to Tapas and when we order the prerequisite Pimiento de Padron whilst we perused the menu, what arrived definitely weren’t the peppers in question, although our waitress insisted they were. Not wanting to get pedantic about padrons we left it. Not a good start then.
We ordered a wide selection of dishes, which were all reasonably priced for the Leeds market (i.e. not cheap) and they came as they were being cooked in true tapas style and looking back on it, there weren’t bad per se, they were just all right. There was some weird thai flavours happening in the prawns and the baked egg pot and aubergine with fennel were declared winners. Everything else was by the numbers tapas which is easily surpassed by the large chain La Tasca which says something (and they have proper Padron peppers too).
Service was not particularly good either with our waitress struggling to open a bottle of wine, insisting Padrons were flat and red and putting my coat on the coat hooks where she said ‘the restaurant cannot be responsible if anything happens to it’ and then leaving it there.
These are all small things but they make a difference. Whilst it’s early days and the food probably deserves another chance, I’m not sure we’ll be rushing back anytime soon. They have to up their game if they want to survive – currently at least four other tapas bars/restaurants are ahead of them in Leeds and we know it’s survival of the fittest out there.
Footnote: We left with that unsatisfactory tapas feeling – we’d not actually had any proper cured meat (the meats on the menu in Ambiente did not light our fire) and headed out to the superb Friends of Ham, where that was sorted out sharpish as the photograph below testifies.