Manchester Tapas Trail

Lunya

“Who needs San Sebastian when you’ve got Manchester?” neither of us said as, inevitably, the Lancashire sky discharged its drizzly payload upon us moments after leaving the station.

Perfect weather then, for a bowl of Lunya’s chorizo and morcilla hotpot on our first stop-off around the city centre’s tapas gaffs. Forget yer clean-eating protein pots of misery, it’s this sort of stuff that keeps the engine ticking over. Black pudding crumbling into the sauce; chorizo doing chorizo things and some decent tangy bread to transport the lot from plate to face.

Globes of serrano croquettas – ‘crunchy outer’ and ‘viscous inner’ boxes resoundingly ticked – completed the good value 2 for a tenner lunch deal.

We snaffled the lot sitting at the bar, which started to busy up as, freshly sustained, we ventured on.

La Bandera

Bit too bright and ‘airport-bar’ at first glance – I’d rather channel my inner Amigo in establishments a touch more worn in – and up a gear in price-point too, but the extra couple of quid got us some generous portions of expertly cooked fodder, such as these slow cooked Iberian pig cheeks in PX sauce (£8.50).

Any right-minded person knows that boiling a potato is the most disrespectful way to treat something that can be elevated to chip status, but exceptions were made with these moreish arrugadas (£6.45) translated as, body-shamingly, ‘wrinkled potatoes’.

Seasoned liberally and doused in either of the pungent ‘rojo’ or ‘verde’ sauces, they helped to ensure a consistent level of lager-based fluid intake was maintained.

El Gato Negro

Well busy.

Like Lunya, the restaurant proper’s upstairs with a bar below, where a lone chef knocked out good-looking, simple plates from a shortened menu. We perched and picked at some sharp, meaty anchovies on crostini (£6.50), and salt cod croquettes (6 quid) which, although lacking a bit of the crunch of those we’d had earlier, still made for a tasty bite.

It’s a looker of a place, no question, and like La Bandera probably somewhere to dig in for a full night rather than pretend, as we were doing, to be undertaking a cultured tapas bar-hop.

Onwards.

Iberica

Spinningfields: all the allure of an off-motorway Business Park and home to Iberica’s first jaunt outside London.

Like the Leeds gaff that came later, the credit card must’ve taken some hammer during the fit-out. Back in Yorkshire the bogs were talked about as much as the scran over the first few weeks. Nowt wrong with that really, as long as the food doesn’t get bumped down the list of Important Things.

I can’t comment on the full mashings but the bar menu comes closest to the beer-with-snack jobbie we were looking for. A slab of bready empanada; a handful of down-in-one-sized chorizo buns and a charred chicken skewer – all for a couple of quid each – are sound and ably fulfil the brief.

Tapeo and Wine

I liked the low-lit, laid-back Tapeo and Wine enough to overlook a bowl of ‘well done’ paella that, you’d have thought, should’ve been on the ‘Allow 30 mins’ section of the menu. Its gnarly chunks of chicken and rabbit were tasty enough but the claggy rice suggested that the lot would have been at its best a few hours ago.

Tons better – and fresher – were the berenjena frita; crispy disks of fried aubergine not dissimilar to the (ace) pakoras we get from Pakeezah back in the homeland.

Not rammed, not dead, handsome spot: revisit required.

Paella: £5.

Aubergine Disks of Awesome: £4.50.

El Rincon

Possibly my highlight of the day. Could be down to the bonhomie of the family-unit running the show (I recall a baby. Did we hold a baby?), or the feel of the place (steep stairs, high ceilings, wanted to start smoking, was there a Spanish football match on the TV?); but most likely down to the fact we were, by this point, completely wazzed.

 

Who wants chickpeas when they’re plastered? Me, apparently, trying too hard – as ever – to appear convincing. Necked some plump prawns too. Both were good, but let’s be honest, we should have been on the kebabs by now.

Evuna

Blathered. Didn’t make it.

Harvey Nichols

You’ll have built up quite the appetite necking all that tapas. We sated our hunger the next morning in the form of some dead good eggs benedict at Harvey Nichols, to the sum of a very reasonable 7 quid.

Not, perhaps, the first place that springs to mind with the plethora of brunchy spots dotted about the locale, but the welcome was warm, the coffee bob-on, and the views not too shabby either. A chat with the gaffer about keeping prices competitive and standards high suggests there are more good things to investigate here once you’ve swerved the overpriced handbags downstairs.

@eatingthenorth

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