The passion, flavour and theatre of Spanish tapas, well, not quite.
La Tasca has made an effort to ensure tapas appeals to the average folk on the high street. The restaurant is dark, gothic, lit with candles and candelabras and, from the outside, it looks enticing.
There’s authentic music and it gives off the vibe that this is somewhere where you’ll eat interesting fiery food washed down with rich red wine. It also looks romantic but it’s only when you step inside and have a close look around that it becomes apparent that it’s all a little too contrived.
It's more Disneyland than the Basque country and it's more of a flimsy stage-set than the real deal. Where are the scrumptious hams and chorizo sausages hanging above the bar and the thick wooden boards decorated with fresh seafood? Nowhere, to be blunt, and it's doubtful whether they're even out the back either.
Some will no doubt be taken in by this over elaborate, stereotypical illusion of Spain but surely not many. It’s a little like what Cafe Rouge tries to do for Parisian cafe-style, but executed with a little less creativity and far less accuracy. La Tasca is one of the many restaurants on Greek Street but, unfortunately, not one of the best.
The trouble with tapas is that it’s never really done well outside of Spain. Bar a few select small-scale offerings in the capital, most cities you visit fail to offer good tapas food and certainly fail to recreate the atmosphere. There's clearly a gap in the market and La Tasca is doing its best to fill it and it's pretty much got the monopoly on anyone inquisitive about this delicious Mediterranean fare.
Despite the superficiality of the place, it does get busy with customers you would expect to see in sophisticated eateries and pleasant family gatherings and couples out for a nice evening. It’s certainly not the Pizza Hut crowd so it appears that it does warrant its place sat on Leeds’s premier ‘foody’ street.
Staff are nice enough but again do nothing to give you a real taste of Spain. Let's just say the atmosphere isn’t bad for a restaurant in England but is a long way off reaching the heights and sheer passion of a bustling tapas bar.
Worry sets in somewhat when you see the interior and sit down to read the menu. But this is a chain with many restaurants in some of the best cities and towns across our fair nation, so it’s got to be doing something right, right? Wrong.
Food is so bland here it tastes like it's straight from a microwave. In the tapas range, the paella is mushy and luke warm (paella de carne £3.95) and the vegetables overcooked to the verge of disappearing. Chorizo sausages (chorizo with red wine £3.95) are greasy and not pleasant.
Overall, La Tasca is a disappointment. It’s a place with an ethos that offers so much and a cuisine that can be so enticing and delicious but, unfortunately, looking forward to dessert starts from the minute you get your starter, and ends when your dessert arrives.
Desserts concentrate on stereotypical Spanish dishes (again) with lots of orange and lots of chocolate. How authentic they are is doubtful. Churros are interesting, served with fruit and chocolate dipping sauce (£5.95). Tarts and cakes are a safer bet if you don’t want to get too messy. White and dark chocolate cheesecake (£3.95) is indulgently rich and helps clear the greasy aftertaste of the mains.
Drinks have an obvious bias towards Spanish fare. There are plenty of bottles of wine to choose from including Rioja’s and Tempranillo’s, bottles starting from £12.95. Riojas are very velvety, as the menu states, and a definite positive to take away from all this.
There is a good selection of cava and champagne and, of course, jugs of sangria (£11.95 for a pitcher). San Miguel can be bought in a two-pint pitcher (£6.30) or by the pint (£3.15). There are also Spanish liquers (Creme de Naranja £2.85) and sherries, just to confirm this is a Spanish restaurant. Coffees (Cappuccino £2.15) and a full range of hot and soft drinks are available too.
The Last Word
La Tasca is disappointing to say the least. An idea that offers so much yet fails to deliver good tapas and fails to come anywhere close to replicating the favourite hangout of the native Spanish people.