SANDINISTA were pioneers of the bar revolution in Leeds but after opening a new outlet in Manchester, Confidential thought it was a good time to see if they were taking care of business at home.
We popped in on a Sunday evening expecting the full Mexican/tapas fare, only to find a limited menu, which is something to note when booking. That will teach us to read t’interweb properly though.
Both cocktails hit the spot, although it was a bit odd sipping them staring out over a municipal car park…hardly Sex and the City.
It was very quiet when we sat down, which always makes us happy as service should be snappy and food should arrive quickly if we are the only people ordering. Although the menu was limited, there was plenty of choice in the main courses with meat, fish and veggie options all present and correct, backed up by some interesting tapas options.
I was slightly disconcerted when the waitress sat down next to me – I mentioned this to one of the North’s leading restaurateurs and he was genuinely horrified - and more so when after ordering she told us: ‘that’s a lot of food.’ I may be wrong, but surely that’s our choice?
There were no starters so we decided to kick off by sharing a Bouillabaisse (£8.50) that put us in a better mood. The lightly spiced stock worked well with very generous chunks of cod and salmon with tiger prawns and mussels thrown into the mix. The sweet potato was an inspired touch and the mix of fish and veg was well judged.
Although Sandinista offers a decent range of bottled beers, I was a little disappointed with the bog standard beers on draught so we decided to get stuck into a couple of the vast range of cocktails the bar offers.
I had a cheeky little Cosmopolitan (£6) as a tribute to Sarah Jessica Parker and there was plenty of Ketel One Citron and Cointreau in the cranberry juice to give it a real kick. But I was gutted when the Starberi Sling (£6) arrived across the table – a beautifully presented mix of Stoli Razberi vodka and Pimms in a long glass packed with crushed ice. Both cocktails hit the spot, although it was a bit odd sipping them staring out over a municipal car park…hardly Sex and the City.
The main courses were also spot on with the steak and chips (£11.50) a particular hit. It had been ordered rare and that’s exactly how it came. The handcut chips were slightly overdone, albeit very tasty. The peppercorn sauce tasted like marmite and was left on the side though.
It was interesting idea to offer a puff pastry pizza (£7.50) and the potential for disaster was high, but somehow it worked. The pastry was judged perfectly with the sweet potato, mozzarella and caramelised onions on top coming out of the oven without being nuked.
As we were operating on a limited menu, we’d gone for some tapas to compensate for the paltry dessert list. The salt fish fritters (£3.50) were as advertised – salty without tasting like the sea and the zingy homemade salsa helped take the edge off. The gambas prawns (£3.50) were also marinated perfectly in a feisty garlic oil.
The jalapenos (£3.50) in breadcrumbs were certainly lively, but opened a heated debate about whether they were home made? The debate was still raging when we left.
The so-so service and lack of ambience was more than compensated for by the brilliant background music, churning out all the indie classics and kept us amused playing a hip Name that Tune.
So any fears that Sandinista Leeds weren’t on their game were unfounded as the food was good, the music policy is still the best in town and the cocktails properly decadent – but maybe a bit less familiar service would be a good idea.
ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.
The score: 13/20
Food – 8/10
Service – 2/5
Ambience – 3/5
5/5a Cross Belgrave Street
0113 305 0372
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