In an effort to bring a taste of southern Italy to Yorkshire this summer, Riva Blu Italian Restaurant & Bar in Leeds has added an extensive new menu to its offering. Keen to see how successful it has been in achieving its goal, we booked ourselves a table and sauntered down Park Row to give it a try.
Before we begin to talk about the food, in terms of the restaurant itself, Riva Blu’s air of quiet sophistication and style immediately put us at our ease, helping us to leave any stress and worry at the door. We were promptly shown to our window seat with the minimum of fuss, which gave us ample opportunity to view the hustle and bustle of the Leeds street scene outside, while we pored over the extensive menu that has had 20 (count them!) new dishes recently added. There was therefore plenty of deliberation to be done but we got there in the end…
From the get go it is clear that Blu Riva places authenticity at the heart of its offering, as demonstrated by its creamy Burrata Pugliese (£13.25), which came adorned with a dollop of tasty green pesto, served on a bed of fresh flavoursome Italian vegetables and accompanied by crisp, toasted ciabatta.
Continuing the theme of freshness, the lightly battered Calamari (£10.25) was cooked to perfection, as were the accompanying courgette and red pepper, which retained a delightful crispiness, to go along with the delicious garlic mayonnaise dip.
While the majority of the flavours here are most definitely Italian, one small concession had to be made in the interests of freshness, with Devonshire crab being drafted in for the Ravioli al Granchino (£19.00). Boasting delightful pockets of generously filled pasta, along with a tremendous combination of fiery chilli, zesty lemon and fresh tomatoes, this again hit the mark in the most satisfying of ways.
Continuing the seafood-based theme, for our other main we opted for the Tonno alla Griplia (£26.50). The yellowfin tuna was grilled to perfection, with just the right amount of pinkiness in evidence. Once again ample amounts of chilli gave the dish some lovely heat, accompanied admirably by vine ripened tomatoes, capers, olives, basil and lemon. A side selection of (Patate al Forno £5.00) padded our both dishes with some deliciously rosemary and garlic-laden roast potatoes.
Given the predominately sea-based flavours of our dishes, we opted for a white to accompany our evening’s dishes. Our waiter, the friendly and attentive Jimmy, suggested the Carricante Terre Siciliane (£41.00), a dry organic wine from Sicily, which proved to be perfect, both in terms of its lightness and the citrus tones it brought to the table.
To round off what had already been a first class display of cooking, we decided to share the Tiramisu al Limone (£15.00), which, in a wonderful display of theatre, was prepared at our table. Not only fun but also incredibly tasty, it brought our evening to an ever so slightly boozy conclusion with the addition of a couple of glasses of Riva Blu’s own limoncello, made exclusively with lemons from the Amalfi Coast.
Thanks to a combination of Riva Blu’s relaxed setting, attentive service and, most importantly, superbly put together dishes, it’s fair to say we had a most enjoyable evening making just a small dent in the restaurant’s latest menu. The flavours were vibrant, while the ingredients were all extremely fresh. Our waiter couldn’t have been more friendly and really helped elevate the entire experience to an even higher level.
With the sun shining outside, at times it was hard to believe that Naples was almost 1,500 miles away from where we were sitting in Leeds, given the authenticity of the meal we’d just eaten.
It certainly won’t be long before we’re back again to sample some more of the tempting dishes that Blu Riva has to offer.