Food Review: Tast Catala, King Street, Manchester
It is Wednesday July 18, midday on a very hot day, seven hours away from the semi-final against Croatia and I’m at the press opening of the keenly awaited Tast Catala on Manchester’s King Street.
The first thing I see is a flag of St George sewn onto the breast pocket of a fellow journo. I suspect he is supporting England but it is askew and looks like a target. As much as I’m looking forward to the next few hours, I’m dreading the match. As a Scotland fan I cannot bear the idea of pizza promoting Southgate and his boys ‘coming home’ with the World Cup – the effect on the Brexit debate would be disastrous. I put the thought behind me and focus on the clean, modern lines of the interior of Tast; it is as beautiful as the glass of Cava that greets me on arrival.
It’s an interesting fact that England and Catalonia share the same dragon-slaying Roman soldier of Greek origin as their patron saint. Whereas I normally associate St George with drunk fat men in ill-fitting suits with red roses on their lapels and skinheads shouting about releasing a cartoon fascist, in Catalonia the lovers exchange flowers and books on the day of St Jordi – beauty and knowledge. It is these qualities that Michelin-starred chef, Paco Pérez brings with him to Manchester. His food is deeply-rooted in his knowledge of the cooking traditions of the region and is as different to Spanish cuisine as the language itself. I greet the staff with a hearty “bon dia” rather that the Castilian “hola”.
Two staples of any Catalan menu are served with a Paco twist- the pan con tomate comes on sourdough bread rather than pan rustic and Espinacs a la Catalana, a simple dish of spinach, pine nuts and raisins, is garnished with a scoop of pine nut ice cream. Both are delicious. Pérez also has a wit as I am presented with a miniature Dunkin’ Donut of white chocolate, raspberry and, ta da, foie gras. Tasty and funny.
In an opening address, a shy Pérez said that he wanted a pared-down interior so that customers could concentrate on the beauty of the food in front of them – what he called “tastets”, small surprises more complex than tapas, plates of the unexpected that allows for a “deeper appreciation of several flavours within a single meal”. In a long lunch which consisted of 14 courses, it was difficult to pick one or two favourites that stood out in a conveyor belt of great and distinct dishes, but Patates D’Olot and Calamarsets Farcits really did blow my taste buds away.
The first were small deep-fried pockets of potato and beef cheeks sauced with carrot mayo. Moist, succulent and crisp. The second dish was baby squid stuffed with egg and tomato in a rich brown savouriness that melted on the palate and lingered long in the taste. A white Can Sumoi and a red Pardas, both Catalan wines, flowed in timely manner as a lively table conversation proceeded through the ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’ of pure culinary pleasure. My apologies to Eric but it was a homage to Catalonia.
About four hours after entering, I left the beautifully appointed Tast Catala, full-up and a convert to Chef Paco and his team. It is a welcome and individual addition to Manchester. I sincerely hope they succeed as it’s been some time since I had a meal like that. Later on, Croatia came to my rescue and beat England 2-1. The perfect end to a perfect day. As the Catalans say, “molt be”.
The Northern Soul Awards 2018
The Northern Soul Awards 2018 took place at the stunning Manchester Cathedral on November 15. Here’s our list of winners, along with the Highly Commended and Special Mentions for each category. Congratulations!
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