It is no secret that Oakwood is becoming a suburban powerhouse in food and drink. It has after all been home to the extremely popular Preston’s and now has further names like Chophaus and Pizza Loco to add to its growing list of independents.
Oakwood is certainly a place of charm and its edge of city dining stands its own against other big suburban draws like Chapel Allerton and Roundhay. Adding to its appeal is newly strip backed and Mexican inspired Hessian Cantina & Cocina.
The food at Hessian has always been good. The brunch menu has given this tiny independent a big name. However, as co-owner and name behind the hugely successful Filmore and Union Will Pugh explained, Hessian’s evening menu needed changing, it needed its own identify.
Tonight, we had been invited to Hessian’s ‘guinea pig’ evening where we would be served an offering of their upcoming Mexican inspired small plates alongside servings of their larger burritos and pambazos. We would be sampling part of their new menu which Will explained would put the fine tastes of Mexican cuisine first.
The drinks available at Hessian are equally as well-crafted and the choice is impressive. Beers like the refreshing Cruz Campo make a welcome appearance on draught whilst local offerings from Ilkley Brewery are well placed. Modelo, Pacifico and the 7 Brothers Watermelon Beer are all inviting and set the scene of somewhere far away.
The South American beach feels continue with an array of cocktails which are served well and include freshly prepared passion fruit martinis to tequila, lime and mango margaritas. The food is just as fresh. Like its drinks, it arrives well styled and Insta-ready.
The small plates are almost all decorated with a rainbow of coriander, salsa, pink pickles, guacamole and fresh tomato. Take the chicken mole for example – this clean tasting traditional Mexican hit of shredded chicken covered with the sweetest marinade, or mole, and served with a fiery pico de gallo made for a tasty start.
The loaded Mexican fries were piled high with cheese sauce and chipotle and followed on from the chicken mole whilst the incredibly light baja battered fish taco tasted just as good as what had come before with its chipotle mayo and red salsa.
Vegan tastes are well covered at Hessian and for our larger plates we continued to be impressed with the focus on fresh simple ingredients. The Mexican pambazos we had not tried before and are traditionally made with a light bread filled with chilli and red pepper.
We ordered the chicken burrito and the ancho chilli jack fruit pambazos. They were a good choice and incredible in taste. They were packed with everything you might imagine from refried black beans to freshly made sour cream and guacamole. It was fair to say Hessian had us gripped and left us planning our next visit.
The new menu and focus on Mexican food has worked well. Hessian Cantina & Cocina have deliberately turned their attention towards South American tastes which use fresh and simple ingredients to serve up food which does not complicate or over do.
Along with its candle lit tables, choice of drinks and latin flare Hessian Cantina & Cocina is definitely one to visit.
Hessian Cantina & Cocina, 466 Roundhay Road, Oakwood, Leeds, LS8 2HU.
Words and photography by Paul Conboy.