Just five minutes away in Ripponden is El Gato Negro Tapas- owned by business partners Simon Shaw and Chris Williams. Both worked at the restaurants of the Harvey Nichols group, Simon as Executive Chef and Chris was in charge of the front of house in London. It may seem odd then that they should choose to open their first venture as a tapas restaurant in a small village in West Yorkshire, but I for one am not complaining. In fact Stephen Jackson of the excellent Weaver’s Shed, Golcar was eulogising about them in a recent Yorkshire Life magazine, where El Gato Negro had won newcomer of the year. (Nice one re your award Stephen, for Yorkshire chef of the year btw). In addition, Stephen mentioned both the Millbank and in the next village along The Old Bore, Rishworth, owned by Scott Hessel- he of the slightly ill-fated egullet thread last year. This tipped the balance for me and so when my best man and his frumpy Spanish wife came to stay last weekend, we ventured down the hill to try it.
It’s set in the middle of the village in an attractively converted pub. Inside they have retained the original flagstones, and added attractive banquette seating and an eclectic collection of wooden tables; all of which co-exist rather neatly with contemporary tonal colours. To order you simply peruse the placemat menu before you and then tick the appropriate boxes, indicating whether you need multiples of any dish…… and yes, of course we did need to order twice. The menu is split into snacks, hams and salamis, tapas meat, fish and vegetables along with sections for bread, cheese and daily specials.
To start with Anchovy fillets on crostini -were lovely, not too salty and served with a sticky balsamic reduction. Acorn fed Jamon Iberico came next- the most expensive dish at £9.50, but utterly delicious nevertheless and to be honest this stuff costs a fortune doesn’t it? Meatballs came with a fritada sauce and were fine. Moist pink, Beef fillet came with wild mushrooms and caramelised shallots and a sherry reduction. Confit of belly pork with rosemary flavoured arrocina beans, came in thin slices with a nice layer of crispy fat. I will admit this was one of the last dishes we ordered, so didn’t get the full benefit as I was rather full. But before I got to that stage, we had a absolutely perfect grilled baby lamb chops with roast parsnips. I could have gnarled away quite happily on these all afternoon. Bloody knockout stuff.
Padron peppers with Maldon sea salt were a personal favourite. I love these things and the Russian Roulette-like risk of not knowing whether the next pepper will blow one’s head off. Syrian lentils were excellent- redolent with subtle notes of cumin and coriander and Tortilla of the day was a classic one with onions and potato. I rather liked it, but my friend thought it could have done with a smidgeon more potato. Spinach and mushroom croquetas were, to me, a revelation. I tried some last year, in the middle of the Boqueria market in Barcelona. At a bar called El Quim (yes, you read that correctly), and they were an abomination of microwaved mush. These however, were light, crispy and moreish. From the fish/seafood section we had Tiger prawns with rosemary, chilli and garlic and the standout dish of scallops, with mini Catalan chorizo and chick pea puree. Sadly shared between the four of us, but I could have eaten two portions of these on my own quite happily.
After seventeen dishes, we were sadly beaten and not even the extremely genial host Chris could tempt us into ordering dessert. Top marks to him and his team, who coped admirably with our respective toddlers having a “moment” each. He took them off us and whisked them off to the kitchen. Not to have them cooked you understand.
In terms of their reputation, they already have a strong local following and from slightly further a field - well a certain Mr Flinn and his missus Olga from Leeds have been, Robert Cockcroft- the Yorkshire Post food critic loved it and somebody called Andy Lynes wrote about it in Olive magazine last year. And if higher praise were needed - the aforementioned friend’s frumpy wife (fear not, she is equally rude to me) is from Barcelona- so knows her tapas. She was aghast at the quality of the tapas on offer. Well the meal kept her and my missus quiet for an hour, which is never a bad thing.
Edit- to strike a balance I did have one minor gripe. I was on driving detail so was not really tucking into the wine. The girls had ordered a bottle of Prosecco by the time I returned with the second contingent, because there was no Cava on offer! Come on now chaps, there must be some out there you can put on the wine list surely.
El Gato Negro Tapas
Edited by Bapi, 26 January 2007 - 02:37 AM.