Having heard an award-winning tapas restaurant had relocated to Manchester’s King Street, we popped along to see what all the fuss was about.
Because of its unassuming, black exterior, my companion and I actually walked past El Gato Negro about two or three times before finding it. Alas, we eventually looked up and saw the sign (we’re both quite small)… and thank goodness we did. This was not one we’d want to miss. The venue is slotted in amongst the other well-knowns and newbies on Kings Street but is surprisingly spacious. Being a converted three-storey building, there’s layer upon layer of goodness to be found. When you first walk in, there’s an initial dining and drinking area with a bar and generally welcoming hubbub. Immediately up the stairs is the main restaurant. Considering it is such a narrow space, El Gato Negro does well to seat four large booths, several smaller tables and a row of stools allowing you to dine overlooking the magic in the kitchen. Potter upstairs once more, and you’ll find a secret cocktail bar with table service and the most delicious Pomegranate Martinis around.
The Food and Drink
We had wave after wave of truly spectacular tapas. First came the special of Asparagus with Duck Egg (a great vegetarian warm-up), before the beautifully succulent Lamb Skewers with Spiced Chickpea Puree and Harissa (£15) arrived alongside a recommended dish of daal-like Syrian Lentils (£4). The Onglet Steak with Patatas A Lo Pobre (£15) was beautifully rare, served sliced, with a peppery marinade and smooth pebbles of boiled potato sprinkled on top… and it was oh-so fine. Finally came the Line Caught Baby Monkfish with Ponta Beans (£12). This was a slight risk, considering my companion avidly dislikes fish, but even she couldn’t help digging in. It was sublime.
Cocktails are the word. The main restaurant serves its own page of cocktails, as well as some lovely wines, beers and spirits. We tried the Margarita Desayuno martini (Tequila, Cointreau, Mezcal, grapefruit, marmalade and lemon - £9), which had a bitter-sweet punch. We particularly enjoyed the tiny toast rack that came alongside it, complete with a tiny pot of marmalade – great for mid-meal snacking. We also tried the Agua De Valencia (Gin, Solerno, orange juice, lemon, cava - £8.50), which came with a salty, barbecue rub on the rim of the tumbler glass… a savoury drink if ever there was one. The Pomegranate Martini mentioned earlier was by far my favourite. Only found on the larger drinks menu in the upstairs bar, this was a creamy and decadent martini made all the more special by the lively atmosphere of the bar.
The Atmosphere and Clientele
Being located in Kings Street, it’s no surprise that the clientele here expect a certain level of standard – which El Gato Negro absolutely caters for. Everybody was well dressed and in good spirits, absent-mindedly tapping away to the blues background music. We were lucky enough to be seated on the kitchen-side stools, which allowed us to really soak in the restaurant; watching the chefs prepare dishes with speedy precision made our mouths water as we waited for ours to arrive. The restaurant team are welcoming and attentive, always checking to how we were doing. A few of the chefs even chipped in, giving us some welcome food recommendations and even serving us our food fresh from being plated before our eyes.
Tapas-lovers, take note. El Gato Negro is a big player in town and without-a-doubt deserves to be your new favourite restaurant bar.