Last Friday evening, my friend Hollie and I kickstarted our weekend with a relaxed dinner at Rico’s in Oakwood. I’m privileged to have a job which enables me to try a wide variety of restaurants in North and West Yorkshire, but I don’t think I have ever visited a restaurant that has been under the same ownership for longer than Rico’s. Rico and Heather celebrated 25 years in business last November.
That says a lot and it’s lovely to see a family-run business still thriving after so many years.
As we walked down the bustling high street, we were reminded how many bars are now open in Oakwood. There is a unique vibe, far enough away from the city centre to feel friendly, but close enough to feel quite hip. It would be quite easy to make a night of it by having some before and after drinks... if only we hadn’t have been driving.
Rico’s is a very relaxed restaurant, right on the main road, just a stone’s throw from Roundhay Park. You wouldn’t look out of place if you turned up straight from a walk, or dressed up for an occasion. Equally so, there would be no judgement and the welcome would be as warm either way.
We were ravenous, which was a good thing as the portions are extremely generous. After spending a while trawling through the extensive menu and making our choices, the food didn’t take long to come at all. Which was great, especially as they were quite busy and they only use fresh ingredients.
To start, I had Gamberoni Rico: king prawns, pan-fried with garlic, herbs, wine and parsley, while Hollie chose the Calamari Fritti. My prawns were huge and delicious. This was a dish I wouldn’t hesitate to order again. If you’re after pizza, think large thin bases. I watched a couple come out of the kitchen and began to get food envy. These are very reasonably priced; about £12-13. Luckily, my food envy was quashed when my fillet steak arrived. I chose Filetto Don Enrico which won me over with its description as ‘a feast for garlic lovers’. A succulent steak, served exactly as requested - medium-rare, it was deceptively big. I struggled to finish it and I rarely struggle to finish a meal. This might have had something to do with the rather sizeable side dishes I ordered to accompany it. Hollie ordered a ravioli dish from the specials board, stuffed with crab meat. She kindly let me try a piece, (there was enough to spare) and I couldn’t fault it.
I finished with Lemon Meringue and Hollie ordered Heather’s recommendation: Rico’s Homemade Vanilla Cheesecake, both simply served. Heather told us they don’t sell many desserts because most of their regulars order starters and mains and are then too full. I couldn’t question that obvious logic, but if you can still somehow squeeze in something sweet, their homemade Tiramisu gets good reviews.
I have visited Rico’s twice now and both times it has been noticeable that they have a number of regular diners who have been going for years. I can understand why. Issam, Kelly, Heather and the rest of the team are just part of the reason this restaurant is such a gem. Oh, and it is absolutely child-friendly. The kid’s menu was one of the best I have seen for a while, just £8.50 for a main, ice-cream and drink, for under 14’s, and you can rest assured the children’s food is home-cooked with as much love as any dishes from the main menu.
This might not be the most luxurious feeling restaurant in North Leeds, but if you enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, friendly familiarity, home-cooked food served in a simple, authentic way, generously portioned then you must give it a try. I can’t imagine you would leave without a smile on your face and pleasantly full bellies.
450 Roundhay Road,
Leeds LS8 2HU.
Tel. 0113 295 9697