Although I’ve spent a year travelling around Spain and am a self-confessed lover of all things Spanish, I’d never heard of calçots let alone the Catalonian festival celebrating their existence.
So, to avoid embarrassment in front of potential calçot conoisseurs and to brace myself and my taste buds for any unusual delicacy, I did a little investigative work before heading out to Lunya in Manchester to celebrate the Calçotada festival. It turns out that calçots are akin to what we know as spring onions, but larger and with a lot more layers. They’re native to the Catalonian region of Spain where the Calçotada festival takes place to celebrate these little guys and do what the Spanish do best: engage in general feasting and merriment. Armed with this beginner’s knowledge, I tripped off to Barton Arcade.
Following Lunya’s initial success in Liverpool (where it opened in 2008), two years ago Peter and Elaine Kinsella bagged the perfect location on Deansgate to transport Lunya’s Catalan charm to Manchester. Unique in combining a deli shop with a bar on the ground floor and a restaurant on the upper level, Lunya brings something new to the now thriving UK tapas scene. In fact, it is Lunya’s deli that sets it apart. Stocked with 1,400 products from regions all over Spain including 46 cheeses (all zero-calories I kept telling myself), it’s also equipped with passionate staff who know their jamón íberico from their jamón serrano. Everything augured well.
The pièce de résistance of the evening, the much celebrated calçots, were a pleasant surprise. Served in the (almost) traditional way – the presentation of the calçots in copies of the Manchester Evening News adding a local flavour to the occasion – and accompanied by owner Philip’s vivid and hugely entertaining (if a little post-watershed) demonstration of how to eat them, these Catalonian spring onions came barbecued until black on the outside leaving a soft sweet centre ready to be dipped in tomato-ey Romesco sauce: delicioso. This was swiftly followed by a buffet-style fill-up-your-plates tasting of Lunya’s deli products, a sharing plate of barbecued meats, and the tapas favourite patatas bravas all finished off with the classic dessert crema catalana and a customary post-meal G&T. The Kinsellas left no stone unturned in their delivery of an authentic Calçotada experience.
My personal highlight? The segment dedicated to the traditional consumption of the much-loved cava. No reaching for a glass here, rather the communal porron from which the cava is poured into the mouth (the further away the better) without the vessel touching the lips. There’s little doubt now as to why we’re wearing paper bibs.
All in all, Peter and Elaine have showcased what makes Lunya one of the most authentically Spanish restaurants I’ve ever eaten in. They have hit on what makes the Spanish dining culture unique – the coveted mi casa, su casa ambience. If you want to be looked after as a restaurant guest yet feel like you’re dining among amigos, all the while enjoying some of Spain’s finest produce, then Lunya Deansgate is the place for you.
For more information about Lunya, click here.