I’d done a pretty good job of swerving any sort of Christmas related merriment until this trip. Not for me the Secret Santas or the festive jumpers, and if you sent me a card then cheers, but – no offence – it likely went directly from its envelope to the recycling pile, next to the fridge. Nope, “scheduled fun” and I have never been the best of buds.
But I’m a changed man, for after scarfing the shamelessly seasonal turkey and stuffing croquettes from La Casita in Ilkley I’ve pencilled in a repeat visit to this twinkly-lit tapas spot every December from this moment on. Sack it, I might even chuck on an elf hat.
Roll anything in breadcrumbs and deep-fry to a golden crunch and, naturally, I’ll be as happy as a pig in a blanket; but these three stocky barrels of festive joy – their sweet slick of onion puree cutting through the richness – are standouts of the genre.
The croquettes are, praise be, the only nod to Christmas on a menu that navigates adroitly through a mixture of the mostly familiar and the occasionally less so. We arrive hungry and sober and we leave full and merry. La Casita does its thing very well.
Breads are griddled and arrive with pucks of olive oil butter for smearing; and then there are plaice goujons, given spark and freshness from slithers of lemon. The aioli’s perhaps a touch on the reticent side, but then I do like the potent stuff that’s still seeping from the pores a good four days after consumption.
My Millennial pretensions (apparently a 1980 birthday counts if you find the right report) implore us to get amongst cubes of roasted pumpkin – the Spanish “Calabaza Asada” much sexier – dotted with tangy goats cheese and crunchy walnuts.
Sukalki – “a typical beef ragu” – is a hotchpotch of slow-cooked, flaking meat, speckled throughout with diced veg and chunks of spud. Being of the opinion that such meaty concoctions should be saucy and scoopable – an ensemble of parts melded into one – I’m initially sceptical. And I still am, really, but the lot was still hoovered up.
Patatas Ibericas, soft and crisp in the right places, add further insulation for the nippy journey home, and wedges of milky Manchego, with a glass of dark and nutty Oloroso, finish the job off.
When I say that this isn’t food to dissect and analyse it’s meant only in the best way. This food malarkey’s all got a bit serious, and a handful of tapas dishes at La Casita are a handy reminder that sometimes it’s just a pleasant thing to get a bit pissed while eating some tasty gear.
What I really like about La Casita is that it’s less attention-seeking (read: less up its own arse) than some of the other glitzier (pricier) tapas spots to be found under the bright lights of the big cities. I also like very much the 3 for 13 quid offer that’s available if you go for an early tea.
And I really like the turkey and stuffing croquettes, for which I’ll be back next Christmas.