There are few things that I love in the world more than tapas, so when I heard that El Gato Negro was opening in Leeds, I knew I had to have a taste. With chef Simon Shaw's Spanish-inspired cooking making waves across Manchester and Liverpool, I had high hopes that this one would be a welcome addition to the city.
The restaurant is located in the lower half of Park Row, with a facade that doesn't give away too much. I’m pleasantly surprised when we walk inside; there's gorgeous exposed brick walls with pops of light teal, a grand ceiling hanging with greenery and sleek, spacious booths. The kitchen overlooks the restaurant and there is a very cool Leeds-inspired mosaic on the wall that I would quite like to take home.
One thing I really like about El Gato Negro (in addition to the food and the decor) is that they play music at the perfect level. I hate when it’s too loud for conversation over dinner, but here it blends into background noise. The tables are generously spaced out too, so there’s minimal risk of eavesdropping – ideal for gossip-worthy catch-ups.
The tapas menu is varied without being over extensive. It's split into five sections; nibbles, fish, veg, meat and charcuterie, plus desserts if you’re into them. Our waitress suggests five to six dishes between two but we’re feeling ambitious and go for eight. In hindsight, I’d advise sticking with six. There are plenty of boozy drink options too - I’m a big fan of wine with Spanish food, but there’s also fancy cocktails and a small but cute bar to drink them at while you’re waiting for a table.
The dishes come out as and when ready, which means the first three come alone, and the rest arrive in a flurry. The salt cod croquettes (£6.80) both look and taste stunning – even my croquette-hating boyfriend is a fan. We order morcilla scotch eggs (£9) which are probably the best scotch eggs I’ve had (and I’ve made my own before). They come as a three with the option to add another – a nice touch for those who don’t like to share.
The real star of the show has to be the braised ox cheek with celeriac puree (£7.50); it’s a huge dish and the ox cheek is tender and flavourful. It may be one of the pricier choices on the menu but it’s worth it for both quality and quantity. We also get lovely patatas bravas (£6.50) and green beans with piquillo pepper and hazelnuts (£5), which are really good... not something I usually say about green beans.
Then there’s the fried Monte Enebro cheese with rosemary honey (£5) - so tasty, but be warned, the honey is hotter than lava and ready to explode at first bite. Bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (£4) is nice enough but not worth the cost, though beef skewers (£9) arrive with mojo sauce so delicious that I’m still praying they bottle it up so I can buy it again and again. If that sounds like a lot of food, that’s because it is - I was full by dish five and stuffed by the end.
The DesignMyNight Digest
El Gato Negro ticks all the boxes: delicious and Instagrammable food, gorgeous décor and a great location. Perfect for meals with mates, romantic dates, or a celebratory occasion, this is definitely a great addition to the Leeds food scene and one I can see becoming a staple for permanent residents and weekend visitors alike.