When it comes to tapas restaurants in Manchester, Simon Shaw is top of the game. First, he brought us El Gato Negro, and then it was cool younger sibling Canto. Located in Ancoats, this is a slick spot in one of the city's up-and-coming areas. Heading north of the Northern Quarter, we just had to see what the fuss was about.
Combining nods to Portugal with sophisticated modern design, Canto is a Mediterranean dream. Lisbon-style tiles adorn the walls as drop lights, dainty ornaments and plants beckon hungry diners from its windows. Patterned plates and mismatching printed cushions further captured that je ne sais quoi thrall of charming Portugal, while earthy green and brown notes added to the contemporary feel.
Making my way through the wine list, I bravely veered away from my usual choice of nectar - a trusty Pinot Grigio - and towards a glass of white Rioja. The verdict? Excellent. Without a doubt, my favourite dish was the chargrilled sweet potato (£4.50), temptingly served with white bean puree, mint and orange honey and toasted pumpkin seeds. It sounds like a strange mix, but the melange of flavours was a treat for the tastebuds with the added perk of being somewhat healthy.
Next up; polenta, spinach, poached egg and manchego cheese (£5). Delightfully and authentically Mediterranean, this explosion of textures, vegetables and protein is now a firm favourite of mine. My guest chose the prawns in chilli oil (£9), roasted potatoes in brava sauce and aioli (£4.50) and peri peri chicken (£8). If you don’t mind getting your hands messy then the expertly-seasoned prawns are a must, with the added kick from spiced infused oils. The potatoes - a mainstay of any tapas menu that knows its worth - were equally appetising, with heaps of garlic running through creamy aioli.
The only time Canto did miss a trick was when our caramelised cauliflower with spiced cannellini bean stew (£4) was forgotten. Handling the issue immediately, our waiter resolved the problem and we tucked into our highly-anticipated dish. When it did arrive, though, it was a bland contrast to the incredible dishes before – inoffensive, but not quite hitting the mark.
The DesignMyNight Digest
There's no doubt that Canto hits the spot. Situated within a square of quirky bars, this Ancoats gem reigns in the culinary stakes. Whether you're dining out with family, digging on date night or catching up with friends over sharing plates and wine, this Mediterranean restaurant is a food-lover's haven.