Azucar, Leeds – Restaurant Review
by Matt Callard
Not for Azucar the clinking crystal and frigid formality of fine dining. This is food as rock ‘n’ roll – big amped and big screened with a counter culture icon as part owner. If eating out to you means hushed voices and starchy linen – lookout – Azucar will have you for breakfast.
Cuban-themed, with a stacked up spirit bar seemingly on the brink of toppling, bright paint-spattered walls and the smell of revolution in the air – well, tapas, anyway. Yes, Azucar is all about South American food – all served in the rip-roaring, tear and share, thoroughly rock ‘n’ roll style of tapas.
There’s booth seating too, which we thoroughly approved of, as you’ll need plenty of room for the ten or so bite size (or not so bite size in some cases) chunks that will come your way in true fast-and-friendly, nice-and-spicy tapas style.
“Dive into the finger bowl”
The more familiar morsels were excellent. Four King Tiger Prawns in a delicate lime mayo (£5.95) got us up and running and the classic Corn Tortilla with Chilli Beef, Cream and Cheese (£4.50) revved up the jalapeno count and contained some lovely shredded beef, rather than the all mince combo that we expected.
The Calamari (£4.25) was sweetly crisp and the Garlic Mushrooms (£3.55) were, appropriately, drenched in the strong smelling stuff (apologies to work colleagues the following day, natch). Three giant Sweet and Spicy Pork Ribs (£4.95) might have ruined my best shirt but the drip-honeyed meat fell from the bone. Take note: this can be dirty eating! Don’t bother with the manicured nails and dive into that finger bowl!
The more unfamiliar dishes all played a part too. Xin Xim (£4.50) is a South American classic. A chicken stew with peanut and prawns that should be on a lot more menus. It was a highlight. But we really should have ordered rice to soak up the broth. A Drunken Chicken in Apple Sauce (£4.50) which, despite adding a welcome touch of sweet to the spice, was lost a little among the other big flavours. Chunks of sweet stewed apple might have ramped the dish up a bit instead of the slightly watery concoction we were served. But the dish was fighting a losing battle against the fierce and fiery opposition.
“Spice and fire”
Ten dishes in all – eight truly excellent. I’d call that a pass with honours. There’s one other thing that Azucar does well too. Very well, actually. Cocktails – and lots of ‘em. If you want that full on authentic Latin flavour it’d be rude to shun the odd Margarita or Mojito. They certainly don’t know the meaning of short measures at Azucar.
Good food is good food. And sometimes it happens to come with a loud and decent jukebox. And sometimes it involves a bit of dirty fingered picking and gnawing. Occasionally it’s even accompanied by a big fat plasma screen showing a Cuban documentary about the spice and fire of Latino living. Well, that’s all fine by me. Sometimes you need a bit of fire in your belly as much as you need good food.
Azucar, 5 Brewery Place, Leeds, LS10 1NE
Tel: 0113 2435761
10 course tapas menu for 2 people approx £40