Based in the beautifully picturesque village of Ripponden, Hito is a modern tapas bar and restaurant serving fresh, authentic Spanish cuisine. Open for lunch and dinner at weekends, and for dinner from Wednesday through Friday, the founders believe in combining some of the best produce that Spain has to offer with the wonderful charm and welcome of Yorkshire. The result is a beautifully modern yet relaxed restaurant, perfect for all occasions. It’s the kind of place where I feel like you could dress up for a special occasion or dress down for a relaxed family meal – after a lovely walk along a nearby canal we opted for the latter and were made to feel welcome from the moment we stepped inside.
The design of the restaurant itself is lovely. Wooden tables and chairs give it a rustic feel and an open bar provides all the comfort of a cosy pub while pretty candles, beautiful potted plants and little decorative touches bring all the sophistication of a special restaurant. Despite the beautiful interior, our first thought was that the table would be far too small! The tables for four weren’t much larger than the tables for two and obviously with tapas involving multiple plates of food we thought we’d be struggling with wine and cocktails let alone various plates and bowls! As it turned out we needn’t have worried – they’d thought everything through perfectly. In fact, we all commented that the timing of the meal was perfect – the dishes were brought a few at a time (3 or 4 max) so we always had a great variety but the table never became overcrowded. The selection they brought was varied too – rather than bringing all the “snacks” (breads, chips etc.) at once, they brought the chips later on when we had other hot food to have with them. The dishes came in a constant flow so we could eat all of them hot, at a comfortable pace and really appreciate each one in all its glory.
Their menus are on clipboards and their ordering system is absolutely perfect. I surely can’t be the only one who goes to a tapas restaurant and spends forever narrowing down the choices just to either forget, miss some out or simply struggle to remember what we agreed when the waiter turns up to take our order! Here they give you a pen and you simply mark on the menu which dishes you’d like, and (if you want more than one!) how many. No confusion, no forgetting and it’s so easy to then see if you’ve got a good balance of dishes – in our case we ended up circling most of the dishes on the menu as each one just sounded so incredible.. it’s safe to say I got a very extensive review!!
Of course the first thing I looked for on the menu was bread!! You can bet that no matter how incredible the other dishes are, I will still judge a restaurant on its bread and Hito absolutely nailed it. We were given big baskets of the most deliciously soft bread with slightly chewy crusts served with pots of soft whipped sea salt butter and plump juicy olives.. the most perfect start to the meal (and – as it turns out – middle and end – I was still going for it by the time the cheeseboard came!). Even my mum raved about the bread, and she’s notoriously fussy when it comes to my favourite carb source! They also offer a tomato bread which is more of a bruschetta-type bread. Charred beautifully on the grill, I loved the crunch of the crusts and the subtle flavour of olive oil coming through. The topping was a little too salty for me if I’m being honest, but the tomatoes were fresh and sweet, and the crisp texture of the bread provided a lovely contrast to the softness of the tomatoes.
I was probably most excited about the prawns, and when they arrived I was most certainly not disappointed – they were huge! Plump, juicy and with the type of bite to them that assures you of their freshness, they were possibly the highlight of the meal for me. As if their size and quality wasn’t enough, they were swimming in the most delicious garlic butter sauce – I think my sister was ready to eat it as soup! Each portion is generous too – a far cry from the disappointment of many other restaurants where I’m fishing around in gallons of sauce for the odd pitifully tiny crustacean.
The squid too was an absolute triumph. Served in thick pieces on a bed of squid ink sauce they were beautifully cooked – flavoursome without being overly chewy as squid so often is, and there was even a little croquette on the side. Expecting it to be potato I wasn’t particularly interested, until I cut open the perfectly golden brown crumb and discovered the most heavenly jam-packed crab meat centre. In fact I wish they had those little crab cakes on offer as a tapas dish in their own right!
When it came to the meat I was expecting to take a step back. I dont like chorizo so we’d avoided those dishes, but being a huge seafood lover I hadn’t expected to get excited over the meat dishes having filled up on the dreamiest of prawns and mountains of bread. When they arrived I couldn’t help myself though. Iberico pork fillet came in the most delicate slices, seared to perfection, with a thin chargrilled crust and the most incredible soft pink middle. Slicing through it was a dream and it literally melted in my mouth. On the side were beautifully sweet scallops and even the morcilla looked delicious – I couldn’t quite be tempted into trying it but my dad and sister devoured it! Pork belly came as a thick slab of meat, again grilled to perfection, with the meat tender, the fat crispy and the most well thought out accompaniments bringing the whole dish together into a perfectly balanced mini meal. Even the crispy chicken wings were delicious – something I never thought I’d say (I never order wings, and get so frustrated with the lack of meat on them!).
If you think veggie dishes are less exciting then I guarantee that Hito will make you think again. Their roasted cauliflower jumped out at me immediately but even their simple heritage carrots came roasted to perfection, with candied walnuts adding a lovely crunch and goats cheese packing an absolute punch. The cauliflower was undoubtedly the highlight though. Roasted until beautifully browned it came with creamy curd and a scattering of manchego cheese for a lovely salty contrast to the slightly sweet cauliflower. A beautifully balanced dressing of raisins and crunchy roasted pine nuts were the perfect addition to the dish, adding the most heavenly texture contrast – far from some sad vegetable side dishes I’ve had in the past, this was a full plate that competed with any of the meat and fish dishes!
Last to arrive was the sea bass, and with my dad not being bothered about fish and my sister getting full, my mum and I were lucky enough to have a whole piece each. The fillet was soft and tender, the skin was perfectly crisp and both were presented beautifully on a bed of charred corn and sobrasada mayonnaise – another perfectly balanced dish.
When it came to dessert I was grateful I had my family with me! I’m a dessert lover and I’d certainly never leave a restaurant without trying at least one, but similarly to Italian and Indian cuisines, I absolutely love Spanish-style starters and mains but the desserts (flan, creme caramel, etc) are simply not my type of dessert. I’m a Yorkshire girl at heart, and stodgy British puddings or big slabs of cake always steal my heart, so lighter desserts like mousses or panna cottas, the flaky pastry of Mille feuille or dainty fruit-based desserts usually go unordered in my presence – as my sister rightly said “if I’m having a dessert, I really want to feel like I’ve had a dessert!”. With four desserts on offer at Hito, we had churros, roasted pear mille feuille, crème catalana and chocolate mousse to choose from. Now I am one of those strange people who (despite being donut obsessed!) does not get the churro hype. Every time there’s a food market or festival I see people queue more than 30-deep for what to me is essentially a thin crispy donut with none of the wonderfully fluffy doughy filling of a real doughnut!! That said, I‘m most certainly not adverse to trying them (especially smothered in chocolate sauce!) and with crème catalana being the only dessert I really wouldn’t have wanted, we decided on the other three, with coffees while we waited.
When they arrived I was absolutely delighted – the plates we were presented with were absolute classic examples of not judging a dish by its description! The mousse was the biggest surprise – rather than being the small pot of light airy nothingness I was expecting, was a beautifully rich slab of chocolate heaven – layers of cake with chocolate ganache and a mirror shine finish that Mary Berry would’ve been proud of! Served with chunky pieces of nut brittle and cookie crumbs it was undoubtedly my favourite of the three.
Perhaps most surprising was the mille feuille though. I steer well clear of these, vanilla slices or any similar desserts in patisseries and can confidently say it’s the first time I’ve ever ordered one in a restaurant but this one was absolutely lovely! Originally I’d ordered it mainly for my parents to try, but once it arrived the four of us dived straight in! Like many other dishes, Hito have put their on unique twist on a traditional mille feuille, piling up thin layers of crisp pastry with beautifully soft stewed pears and the most heavenly sweet vanilla caramel custard. Sadly the top layer was slightly overdone, with the overly browned pastry leaving the faintest of burnt aftertastes, but the other two layers were absolutely lovely, and combined with the vanilla custard even the top layer was by no means unpleasant. It was an incredibly well thought out dessert, just not quite perfectly executed.
The churros – for me! – were perfect. Smaller than regular churros they were slightly more stodgy and slightly more representative of a donut than a churro, with a soft, smooth outside rather than the crispy, crinkly edges so common in churros I’ve previously had. Dusted in cinnamon sugar and drowned in delicious chocolate sauce they went down an absolute treat for me, but if like my mum (who was hoping for a slightly more traditional churro!) then perhaps opt for one of the other desserts instead.. or even go for their cheeseboard, which is listed under mains but would make a perfect dessert too!
With their wonderfully different takes on all three desserts meaning that I was very pleasant surprised by all of them, I was slightly regretting not ordering the fourth to see what it was like.. but at least that means there’s something new for me to try next time!
We had an absolutely perfect evening at Hito Tapas. They’ve got a wonderful selection of dishes – they’ve covered all bases with a great selection of meat, fish and vegetarian options whilst keeping the menu short enough that it’s not overwhelming or leaning towards quantity over quality. There were a couple of dishes which didn’t quite deliver but if I’m honest by the time we left those were long forgotten, with the perfection of so many other dishes far surpassing the disappointment of a slightly overdone mille feuille pastry! As the staff said, they’ve tried to create something slightly different amongst the many Yorkshire pubs around and for me they’ve achieved the perfect balance – all of the quality of a great tapas restaurant with the relaxed vibe of a cosy, warm gastropub – a true Yorkshire gem!
Link to their website: http://www.hito-ripponden.co.uk