It wasn’t out of choice. We did actually want to go on Saturday evening, but El Gato Negro is so popular that we had to opt for a 2.30pm slot on Sunday. This award winning restaurant originally based in Rippendon launched in Manchester’s King Street on 22nd February is booked up for weeks on Fridays and Saturdays.
But actually, what a great time to eat – we felt pretty chilled and sophisticated as we leisurely tucked into our elegant tapas dishes in the simple and classy surroundings of this restaurant.
So I’ll cut to the chase. The highlight for me without a doubt was the tortilla with white onions and potato served with aioli. I wasn’t over the moon when Jamie ordered it as my experience is of something dry, bland and a bit pointless really. But OMG – when this tortilla arrived, I forgot about everything else on the table. It was just so light, fluffy, moist and flavourful – stuffed to the gills with some kind of fresh herbs (no idea what – I was too busy eating it). Go to El Gato for the tortilla alone.
The other food was also excellent – charcuterie; freshly grilled sardines with lemon, garlic and parsley butter; lamb skewers with spiced chickpea puree and harissa (Jamie’s favourite). But again it was something more ordinary that captured my imagination: a tiny bowl of celeriac remoulade (aka coleslaw) with the meats. Oh yes! This stuff hit the spot – just creamy, nutty and sweet. I could have polished off a big bowl of that.
Another unexpected delight was the Navarrico chickpeas with butternut squash, chilli, garlic and caramelised cauliflower. Obviously with those ingredients the dish was bound to look a bit beige – but the flavour – my! This spicy treat was a fabulous accompaniment to all the dishes – however El Gato’s chefs made some magic that elevated the dish to special status.
There was something classy and uncomplicated about the whole afternoon, helped by the staff being attentive and friendly (and a lot of them seemed to be Spanish). And what I love about tapas is it feels like Christmas to me. You order a load of stuff and then it keeps appearing one dish after another each like a brand new surprise. And being surrounded by lots of nibbly tasty things is officially the best way to eat.
It’s worth giving this place a whirl – it’s beautifully and simply decorated and above all the food is authentic and brilliantly executed. Cost-wise – our meal came to £68 – including wine, beer, five tapas dishes and bread. Apart from the restaurant – we had a good sneak around and there’s a lovely looking bar on the ground floor (pictured below) where you could just go in for some simple cold tapas. Even better, tucked away on the top floor is a cocktail bar with delightful views of the city and a retractable roof! I’ll so be there in summer.
Have you been to El Gato Negro? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And I’m keen to know about any other great tapas experiences to be had in the North West.