I'm still dreaming about that 14th Arrondissement. And I'm not talking about a grubby district in Paris...
A restaurant and cocktail bar collaboration; Ricci’s Tapas and 53 Degrees North is quite a sensation in Halifax. I’ve never been myself – I’ve not ventured into Halifax on a night out since probably 1996 when I was illegally knocking back peach-Schnapps and lemonade at 16 years old whilst hanging off of Mad-Ma-Jones’ balcony in knee-high socks and a rah-rah skirt. We’d then head over to Halifax’s super-club of the 90s – The Coliseum (where I vaguely remember throwing up behind the stage on one occasion) and then would finish the night with a kebab with all the trimmings… as you might imagine, I’ve not had the inclination to return for a night out in Halifax since really.
Still, many of my school friends and acquaintances who still reside on the Bradford/Halifax borders rave about Ricci’s and 53 Degrees North. So when I was invited to Ricci’s Tapas in Leeds which opened its very trendy doors less than a month ago, I was keen to see what all the fuss was about.
The hubby and were shown to our table and I kicked off with that 14th Arrondissement whilst browsing the menu – a heavenly mix of Bombay Sapphire, Parfait Armour, Elderflower, egg white, lemon juice and topped off with Laurent-Perrier champers. Three more followed in very quick succession.
Pre-conceptions of what is featured on Riccis Tapas menu is, well, Tapas. Largely due to the Halifax joint always being referred to in conversation as ‘Riccis Tapas’ with no mention of the latter part of the joint’s title – Cicchetti (which apparently means ‘small plates’ in italian).
Anyone who is familiar with the concept of tapas may conger up visions of a table piled high with small burnt orange-coloured ash-tray like ramekins filled with stuffed olives, dried up Spanish omelette, maybe a bit of chorizo sausage, and some sardine fillets swimming in too much olive oil. Get that vision out of your head…
After a brief chat with the very charming and well-versed waitress, we kicked off with the following four dishes and a helping of marinated Spanish & Italian olives to start us off.
White goats cheese stuffed Piquillo peppers:
Italian and Spanish cured meat platter:
Dairy cow aged beef fillet:
And finally pan fried tiger prawns in chilli and garlic.
Our ‘small’ plates (and they aren’t exactly ‘small’ in my opinion either) came in quick succession – maybe just a little too quick, and our table was on the small side so there was a point when, for a few moments, our evening almost turned into an episode of Krypton Factor as we tried to figure out where to put what, still, that’s my only gripe.
The lovely chef personally brought us one of his recommendations – an amazing pork and king prawn dish, which I can’t for the life in me remember the name of. Still, it was a great combo of flavours and quite delicious (below).
The menu is extensive with all sorts of yummy sounding plates kicking off with a nibbles section and then moving on to a variety of breads, cured meats, cheeses, vegetables, fish and shellfish, pasta and risotto, meat and a selection of chef’s recommendations.
If you have the space for dessert then have a few! After all that’s what this place is all about and I sure as hell couldn’t have chosen between deconstructed honeycomb cheesecake, a caramelised apple and toffee-cream éclair or sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel cream – could you? So I opted for a liquid dessert instead.
Ricci’s Interior conforms to the on-trend industrial look and feel with a splattering of that ‘Leeds flash’ thanks to the high gloss white leather-look chairs and a splash of deep turquoise here and there. The place is cool, light and airy thanks to floor to ceiling street-view windows.
Ready for more cocktails? Jump into the elevator-like structure to the far right of the open kitchen. As the automatic doors close and you observe the digital screens of cannabis farms swaying in the wind (honestly), a second set of doors open with a puff of smoke (not of the pot kind) – pushing you to make your grand entrance into what, for a second, almost feels like some ultra-glam 1960’s New York loft party. I was dressed to impress so I sauntered in, husband behind me still trying to find his way through the puff of smoke.
Huge glossy white leather circular booths to my left, DJ spinning his tunes to the right, with the flamboyant bar dressed with oversized candelabras and champagne buckets filled with magnums of Laurent Perrier Rose dominated the room. In one corner is a white fringe covered, raised VIP area with funky pop-art – a great space for glamorous hen parties or banker types who want to blow their cash on expensive vintage magnums of L.P. away from the riff-raff.
For more high profile guests; downstairs in the basement, the joint boasts a Gin Vault, which is the ultimate VIP space for any gin lover (with enough cash) and a very hip meeting room for suits wanting to ‘break away’ from the mundane or to impress a client.
We were shown to our circular booth, which swallowed us up, and Bar Manager Phillipio was quick to welcome us and give us his opinions of that extensive cocktail list.
I opted for a Lemon Cream Pie Martini, which was served quite spectacularly with its very own fire show. A very flamboyant end to a very lovely evening all round.
Book your table now and see what all the fuss is about: www.riccistapasandcicchetti.co.uk/leeds/
Thanks to Ricci’s for a wonderful evening – I’ll dream about that invite into the launch of the Gin Vault – I’m a sucker for a Slingsby Cocktail.