A few weeks ago I rattled off a few words about where you might want to go should you find yourself in Manchester a bit peckish for the tapas stuff. Diligent research/a day on the piss was undertaken.
My new advice, however, goes thus: rid your mind of all that I wrote, treat yourself to a short tram ride and go to Porta in Altrincham instead.
That’s not to say, of course, that any of the places previously mentioned were bad – Lunya did enough to ensure that we’ll be calling in at their Liverpool gaff in a few weeks; Tapeo deserves a second chance for those aubergine crisps alone; and I need to go back to El Rincon simply to clarify if I’d actually been there at all or if it was all just a big boozy dream – but in pure tapas terms of conviviality, relative simplicity and somewhere to pick at The Good Things while, let’s face it, getting a bit shedded, Porta is the place.
Course, you’ll have to tear yer’sen away from the ace (and award-winning) Market House across the way first, where the masses – fortified by and lubricated with, amongst others, Honest Crust pizzas and Blackjack’s beery offerings – get the weekend going with gusto. We were back here for brekkie the next day; the Wolfhouse Bakery sausage sarnie a thing of porky happiness.
As is the case at the Porta mothership down the road in Chester, there are no reservations to be had. This is, after all, a bar that does food – as it should surely be with tapas – and you’ll get the warm informality that brings.
I like eating somewhere with a din. The Reliance has a din. Your shit-but-good local Italian usually has a din. The din at Porta is all hospitable hustle and boisterous bustle. Don’t expect your scran to land at the table with a reverential rundown of the ingredients and techniques involved. Do expect to go elbow to elbow with the stranger sitting next to you.
Nobody’s trying to re-invent la rueda (the wheel) here, but la rueda (the wheel, again) turns very nicely, ta very much. Croquettes did the crunchy and gooey thing, and at £3.50 they they did it as well as those fancier places in the city but for 2 quid cheaper.
I clocked a just-set tortilla on the bar so nabbed and necked a trembling slice. £3.50 for a whopper. (£6.50 at Iberica if we’re keeping score.)
Here’s a plate-lickingly good chorizo and lentil stew for £5.50.
We had some chicken wings as well, and although I don’t pride myself on being any sort of photographer – I want to eat the stuff, not frame it – it turns out that wings are even less photogenic than me. Stripped ‘em bare, we did.
Here’s a menu of things you want to eat at prices you want to pay in a place you want to be. Hams and cheeses, bravas and boquerones; the classics all present. But let’s not kid ourselves that our familiarity with this fare means it’s easy to pull off. The place is rammed on this visit, the kitchen getting tonked, but everything that lands is consistently top notch.
There’s something for the craft beer connoisseurs. There’s Estrella for me. Concise wine list, all available by the glass or from 18-30 quid per bottle.
See also: Barrafina, London.