If you’ve ever been on the hunt for Mexican food in Leeds, you’ve probably turned up at Cielo Blanco looking for tacos, and then nine courses later ended up reading your big bill through the bottom of an empty tequila bottle. But if you think they outdid themselves on the food before, you’re about to be blown away. We sent House of Coco travel and lifestyle writer, Sam Johnson, to check out the new menu.
The concept of Cielo Blanco has always been authentic, with most of the team spending time in Mexico looking for the next best thing; either meeting with artisan farmers on the hunt for the best agave, or roaming the crazy barbacoa markets at Oaxaca. They returned from their jaunts with more than just recipes, realising that the only way to eat Mexican food, is to do it the way the Mexicans do, and from this research was born the informal social-eating experience that Cielo Blanco has become well known for.
The street food menu has had a few exciting refreshments, and introduces new flavours with the subtlety of a Mariachi band on acid. One new dish that stands out (must try) is the Slow-Cooked Goat (yes, goat) Pibil Flautas – luxuriously tender flesh in a perfectly crispy corn taco. If goat doesn’t float your boat, try the chicken tinga and chipotle steak instead.
Usually I tend to glaze over when someone utters the word ‘superfood’ – and the sight of quinoa makes my hipster alarm buzz with the same excitement as being at an avant-garde Japanese pipe music festival. That said, the new range of health-conscious dishes (avocados and pomegranates everywhere) at Cielo is impressive, and reinforced by a mouth watering range of super juices, which we’ll come back to later.
Cielo’s magnum opus is the selection of five signature sharing boards; barbacoa chicken; market fish board of the day; belly pork with cumin crackling; chargrilled rump steak or the veggie meze option. The boards themselves could quite comfortably be used as escape rafts in any event of an emergency, stacked with generous helpings of your chosen meat, with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, red rice and warm, fresh tortillas.
After dinner, you’re prescribed tequila like drugs in a chemist. All of Cielo’s 100% agave tequilas and mezcals are served with one of their three homemade sangritas; pineapple, turmeric and pimento; grape, apple and ginger; or tomato, red pepper and Tajin. If you’ve never come across sangrita before, it’s an old customary partner to a tequila shot meaning ‘little blood’, which is used to cleanse the crisp acidity left in the palate. It’s basically a little magic chaser which makes polishing off two bottles of Herencia Mexicana blanco feel like you’re on the Um Bongo.
The real magic, however, comes in the form of Cielo Blanco’s freshest new cocktail – the Avocadorita; fresh avocado, blended with el Jimador reposado, triple sec, lime, agave, coriander and topped with pumpkin seeds. It looks and tastes so healthy that you almost forget you’re drinking a cocktail at all, but trust me, you’d notice if you popped one in your gym bag instead of a kale smoothie.
Mexico might well be 5,442 miles away, but the brilliant team behind the development at Cielo Blanco have brought it home every step of the way and created their own take on it for a Leeds crowd. Tucking into shared communal dishes is something we Brits do very badly, like football, or spending an entire rainy bus journey soaking wet thinking hard about how to build up the confidence to close the window…
But between the atmosphere, the inventive selection of boozy cocktails, and the efficient-but-fun staff, the social-eating experience at Cielo Blanco is super relaxed and genuinely enjoyable, without even a murmur of “does anybody mind if I have the last chimichanga?”
The Feast Menu includes sharing board, street food dishes, and more for £19.95 per person (minimum 4 people sharing).
Cielo Blanco. 415 Trinity Leeds, Albion Street, LS1 5AY. Open every day from 11am until late. 0113 246 9709. cieloblanco.co.uk