If you still haven’t had the chance to eat at El Gato there now are whole new bunch of reasons to drop in, as the King Street restaurant has rejigged its menu for spring and summer with some brilliant new additions.
Hungry and with plenty of food to get through we plonked ourselves down at the bar, peering in to the open kitchen, best to get as close to the action as possible. Oysters are always a nice place to start, as were these – plump and juicy. Following that a fresh tomato salad with goats cheese, watermelon, mint and basil was simple and tasty, if nothing particularly spectacular.
I’m very much in favour of sardines. If you ever find yourself in Lisbon in June you might stumble across a festival which celebrates the humble fish. As far as food events go it keeps things pretty simple, locals in the Alfama area set up stall and ply their trade, which mostly involves tons of barbecued sardines and loads of booze. Sold.
Perhaps a touch more refined but not overly so, these fish are charred and served with an unfussy but ridiculously moreish dressing of coriander and chilli. In my experience finding yourself searching for a spoon or some scraps of bread – or feeling compelled to lift a bowl to your face – are all pretty good signs that a meal is going well. And I didn’t want this plate taken away from me.
Another bit of seafood that needs your attention is the hake fillet. The delicately flavoured fish works really nicely with a creamy sauce of jamón, peas, broad beans and asparagus – certified spring flavours if ever you tasted them.
The indulgently oily spiced aubergine and lavosh bread is a nice example of the maleable mediterranean menu that effortlessly sits Middle Eastern dishes alongside more traditionally European ingredients on other plates. It all just seems to make sense. In our final veg dish lollipops of tenderstem broccoli dipped in to anchovy hollandaise feel like a bit of a treat, and were fun to eat. Speaking of which after some deliberation we drank a bottle of Priorat, Giné Giné, if you like a full bodied red this is a winner.
Our meaty main event began with pig cheeks that effortlessly fell away at the touch of a spoon. Being able to carve up a morsel with that particular implement usually means you’re dealing with something seriously relaxed. A smooth moist black pudding and crisp pig skin added texture whilst sharp apple purée sweetly cut through. The chargrilled onglet steak with patatas a lo pobre replaces the previous ‘steak and chips’ option on the menu and offers something a bit more messy – I mean that in a good way. A lo pobre translates as of the poor but that gravy is oh so rich, and tender pink steak make this anything but a pauper’s dish.
I was left to finish things up alone as Lee had to leave, this has to be the first time I’ve ever seen him pass up a chance to have dessert at any hour of the day. And to be honest he picked the wrong occasion. This chocolate tart is pretty special, a rich choc block encasing walnut pieces and decorated with frangipane, and coffee meringues, spiced coffee syrup and candied walnuts. It was a bit like dessert and petit fours all rolled in to one. An espresso would’ve been the smart move but I went for sherry instead and didn’t regret it, the Emilio Lustau ‘Los Arcos’ Solera Reserva Amontillado was sweet and nutty, and more than made up for my lack of company. No one to share your food with, I could get used to this…
El Gato Negro Tapas
52 King St, Manchester M2 4LY
0161 694 8585