"Why the hell have I never thought to come here before?" - no word of my lie, that was my first thought a couple of weeks back as I entered the restaurant I so quickly disregard during my regular Trinity shopping trips. Even before the food arrived I knew this was gonna be one of those unforgettable dining experiences as I strolled past the beautiful outdoor terrace and into the vibrant, lively atmosphere where I was shown to the large table at the back set out immaculately ready for the lucky samplers of the evening (VIP style at its best). There's plenty of places in Leeds with the familiar indoor setting but Cielo Blanco is definitely on the higher end of the scale. Their interior is flamboyant retro meets traditional and cultural, with striking designs, printed tiling, exposed brick walls and funky, industrial features - plenty of prettiness to meet the eye, and perfect for someone who loves a backup of Insta photos to grace your feed with a pop of colour (like me, obvs). Not to mention, having first class access to the view of the outdoor balcony where I was seated; the pride and heart of Leeds in sheer view. Already I felt comfortable, zoned and in the mood for some bladdy good grub!
My brother was my occupant for the night (gotta repay his contribution to my blog photo taking with the gift of a plus one, right?) but I soon started chatting away with the rest of the geared up guests. I can't be sure but I think I was only one of three bloggers invited so if I didn't already feel privileged, that certainly trebled my status. Before the first stage of our prepared food was brought to us, we were given a choice of fruity cocktails to tingle our tastebuds - and that they did. There was an alcoholic option of Pink Grapefruit and Pineapple Margarita and a non alcoholic refreshing fruit drink but it didn't stop there with an innovative list from tequila based to the extravagant and unique type such as an Avocadorita. Yep, it really is as simple as it sounds - a cocktail with avocado as the main ingredient.
We were also given the low down by the friendly staff and the creators in charge of what to expect from the launch of the new menu, inspired by invigorating travels to Mexico. Their concept is to shape a diverse menu that fits around the exciting markets and street food scene of the country known for its fun fiestas. Think modern and simple food with a twist, the feast sharing experience we were about to savour made up of fresh, zestful, new dishes and menu of old time favourites!
As the banquet was underway, we began with a warm up snack of tortilla chips teamed with a melted cheese chorizo dip, home-made guacamole and house salsa which was nothing but unbelievably delicious to the point of indiscreetly scooping the rest of the contents out with a spoon. Soon after we were then presented with small, appetizing dishes of Mexican style tapas - from the substantial specials such as tostadas, classic soft-shell tacos and crispy, fried corn tortillas generously filled with a mixture of foods significantly different to my usual everyday choices, like black bean, goat flautas, chicken tinga and chipotle steak, to the lighter options of warm butternut and pepitas salad and a natural tomato and watermelon dish. Both were thoroughly enjoyed with compliments against the balance of distinctive flavours and tasty textures - some spicy, some subtle.
By this point, once the entire dispensed plate was cleared, I was both overwhelmed with the mouth-watering choices and surprised by my own daring delves. As amazing as new menu launches are, the element I get the most thrill from is stepping out of my comfort zone, trying foods I'd usually turn my nose up at and discovering actually, I enjoy these exclusive nourishments more than my dull diet back home. My usually bland stomach was already starting to podge but the sharing platters were next up which meant I had to make the room somewhere! Before the main highlight of the Mexican showdown, however, we were blessed with some stuffed jalapenos which turned out to be a lot hotter than I first imagined but after a gallon of emergency gulped water, they went down a treat.
The sharing boards were a breath of fresh air, both appealing to look at, neatly presented with clear attention to detail and obvious effort gone into the creation. As their signature boards are now updated it produces further variety. There was a great selection to adhere to the preferences of everyone ranging from meat, fish and vegetarian. As the cuisine was served randomly in our groups of four, it was hard to quickly grab a relish of each one but I just about managed it. The meat boards contained an assortment of barbacoa chicken, reared belly pork with cumlin crackling, marinated baby back ribs topped with side orders and dressings which were all succulent, melt in the mouth and cooked to perfection masterpieces. On the fish laid salmon and other fresh fillets and in front of our section graced the vegetable based options; Mexico city corn on the cob, enchilidas verde, potato and herb flautas, frijoles negra & crumbly cheese, confit tomato sopes and some quinoa superfood tacos. Once again, the sensual flavours shone through and I was introduced to yet more yumminess I was blissfully unaware of.
I could have stayed all night in the laid back, chilled out, yet classic location but unfortunately had to dash not long after the final orders (and quite frankly, if I ate anymore I think I would have burst). Apparently I missed the round off of the night with a customary paleta (otherwise known as a grown up ice lolly) and a shot of tequila but I'm sure my glutted belly and my woozy-not-the-slightest-bit-prone-to-alcohol head was thankful for a rest.
It was hard to pick a favourite from the adequate selection, I really didn't think I'd be so open to trying such a miscellany but I enjoyed every sufficed amount of food so kindly given to us and my judgemental perception was confirmedly challenged and switched. Cielo Blanco certainly delivered their informal social eating ethos in just a couple of hours, allowing that dining al fresco brought indoors to an envisioned hot climate they aim to please with. Both my brother and I were super impressed, and we walked out of there with a serious regret of missing out before we ventured here, a long lasting impression and an intention of heading back as soon as can be. Thanks to everyone on the independent team who ensured we had the full Mexican Street Food Experience, it was an absolute delight!
Have you ever eaten at Cielo Blanco? Isn't it just incredible? The new menu is now widely available so if you're ever in Leeds, I couldn't recommend a visit to an unwinding Mexican heaven after a long day, enough.