I’ve heard murmurings around Leeds about Ambiente, what in particular was drawing people to it, I wasn’t sure, but there was a definite excitement. After some overpriced drinks in the first class airport lounge surroundings of Malmaison, we merrily headed over to Ambiente on Calls landing in search of something better. Walking through the doors of Ambiente you’re immediately hit with the tempting, smokey smells from their theatre kitchen situated at the heart of this busy restaurant. The riverside location, immediately attentive and friendly staff and contemporary surroundings make it an ideal place to get the weekend started.
I struggle to find fault with the menu featuring a range of influences and interesting ingredients, boosted only from hearing my mate from Barnsley trying to read the Spanish names. It ranged from veggie dishes so tempting, you forget they don’t include meat. Including refreshing salad (ensalada ambiente), generously full of crumbly, salty feta, ripe tomatoes and a sharp dressing. To seafood dishes, one of the stars being a generous helping of chorizo with glass noodles (Vieras con chorizo y noodles). The small, delicate scallops holding their own against the punchy, smoky chorizo. Right through to treats for fellow meat eaters from lamb, liver, pigeon, pheasant and even a Moroccan shepherd’s pie.
Rare for when out for Tapas, we opted for starters. The meat sharing platter, a real treat, with rich & creamy chorizo pate as the centre piece. The more traditional cuts of meat were joined by sweet, sticky dates and crunchy almonds cooked in salty parma ham (Datiles con serrano). The first surprise of the night. The starters showcased some really quality ingredients including rich Manchego cheese and soft, salty, white anchovy fillets.
The restaurant made traditional twists on popular favourites. The meatballs (albondegas) with chilli and lemon grass was the next surprise here. These Thai flavours adding a delicacy to a typically hearty dish. However some of the traditional dished were under-seasoned. These included the patatas bravas and calamari. This is a real surprise when their more unique dishes impressed us all. With great quality ingredients, only a little boost was surely needed.
The ‘wow’ dishes included the perfectly cooked, soft, pan fried seabass in a rich, indulgent ham and sherry cream sauce. The dish we still talk about days later is the salty and sweet goats cheese with tender fennel and beetroot crisps. This dish typified the well balanced flavours and textures found across the menu. Yorkshire was represented with a black pudding scotch egg – the big flavours of the well seasoned filling perfect with a soft, creamy yolk and crunchy coating. The earthy, flavourful lentil and chorizo stew were slightly let down by pheasant which was slightly overcooked and almost chewy. The pork belly too, cooked simply with cumin was tender but lacked a crispy skin – a personal preference. These minor issues withstanding, this was impressive feast punctuated by frequent calls of “You have to try this!” and a race to get your share on your plate.
What I liked most about Ambiente was that intangible bit about enjoying a great meal out – great location, warm welcome, approachable staff, tempting dishes, well timed service and something to talk about once you’ve left. Writing this I’ve immediately been able to recall the goats cheese, sherry sauce and chorizo pate. Flavours that prompted excitement, discussion, extra orders and big smiles from friends. Coming in at £110 for 15 dished, 2 sharing platters, a bottle of prosecco and beers, it’s great value for the quality of food, service and location. We’ll be back to be surprised by the rest of their menu and to simply have a great time!
Ambiente Tapas Leeds
36 – 38 The Calls
0113 246 1848
Open 7 days. 12 noon to 10.00pm