Our Kelly grazes her way through Spanish delights, as she discovers what the fuss is all about at El Gato Negro.
In A Word:
Discerning palettes that can pick out authentic flavours from the gimmicks.
Arriving on King Street on a sizzling hot day in Manchester, to the clinking of glasses and tinkle of cutlery in the open-front ground floor of El Gato Negro, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Spain.
Everything about this restaurant oozes Spanish authenticity, from the charcuterie, restaurant and cocktail terrace spanning three floors, to the bold menu that embraces traditional flavours from across the country.
As we settled down at the chef’s table on the second floor, with front seats at the theatre of the kitchen, we drank in the ambience of a restaurant that clearly feels confident on the Manchester dining scene.
Blood red velvet booths, European décor and modern urban lighting gave an eclectic charm that amplified the buzz about the room. Having arrived in the city in February 2016, after many successful years in Yorkshire, owner Simon has created a venue with style and substance.
Browsing the menu, we were advised that 4-6 dishes would be a safe bet for two people, wisdom that we’ve learned to take with a pinch of salt at tapas bars. However, true to their word, we were soon filling up with generously sized dishes of delightful tapas. Here’s what we had the pleasure of sampling…
Selection of Spanish meats – £13.50
Simply served, this selection of Serrano ham, lomo, salami and chorizo was a palette of vibrant pinks and reds, piled high with care to make grazing positively irresistible. Scooping up dollops of creamy celeriac rémoulade (basically a cross between coleslaw and tartar), it ignited the taste buds and worked up our appetite for the treats to follow.
Of course, being Brits, we couldn’t resist pairing our platter with a few hunks of bread, so we ordered a basket of sour dough too. Made by an independent baker in Manchester, this rustic loaf soaked up the sweet balsamic vinegar on the side like a sponge, taking the edge off the sharp bite of chorizo.
Whole rack of baby pork ribs – £11
I’m always prepared to get my hands dirty for a sticky, moreish set of ribs, and wasn’t disappointed when presented with El Gato Negro’s sherry-infused, 3-day marinated baby pork ribs.
The thick, tender meat that caressed every bone practically melted off the rack, having been slow-cooked to perfection and finished off on the josper for that chargrilled finish.
Chargrilled octopus with capers, shallots and aioli – £10
Octopus is a delicacy in Spain that’s only recently gained popularity in the UK, so it was fantastic to see this dish presented in all its glory on a bed of sliced potatoes, capers, shallots and aioli.
The fishy flavours were balanced by the earthy taste of potato and shallot, making this seemingly bold dish surprisingly light and incredibly delicious.
Coca Mallorquina with red onion, pepper and goats cheese – £6
Spain’s answer to thin-crust pizza, this slender tart was immensely moreish with its unbeatable combination of red onion, pepper and cheese.
The deep flavours of the pepper and onion confit, topped with a generous melt of Monte Enebro goats cheese, made for a mighty but not overpowering dish that disappeared from our plates almost instantly.
Turrón cheesecake with caramel sauce – £6.50
As we contemplated whether to squeeze in another savoury dish or move on to dessert, we were recommended the Turrón cheesecake as a light but indulgent way to round off the meal.
Perhaps the fluffiest, most angelic cheesecake I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, it transpired that this recipe was given to owner Simon from Michael Adele’s collection, although it’s clear that he’s made this versatile dessert his own since then.
Agua De Valencia – £8.50
A refreshing blend of gin, Solerno, orange juice, lemon and cava, this citrus-infused cocktail was essentially halfway between a bucks fizz and an alcoholic Berroca, so it’s no wonder this drink slipped down so easily after a long, hot summer’s day in Manchester.
Oscar Tobia Rosado 2014, Rioja – £5.95
Eager to sample some of their finest Spanish wine, this rose was a perfect accompaniment to the fish dish. A fruity glass with distinct notes of strawberry, it stood up to the pork ribs without drowning out the more delicate flavours of tapas we tried.
Campo Azafran Airen Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Castilla – £4.95
Simon clearly isn’t snobbish about his wine selection, which we liked. Coming in at just under a fiver, the house white was crisp and zesty, with warm hints of apple pairing well with the sherry flavours in the baby pork ribs.
Bringing a little slice of Spain into the heart of Manchester, El Gato Negro offers an authentic tapas experience with British values of good portions, reasonable prices and first class service. Less than six months since opening its doors on King Street, this restaurant has rightly gained a name for itself as one of the best tapas bars in Manchester, and we wouldn’t disagree on that count!
52 King Street
Tel: 0161 6948585