Tapas is lovely and all that, but how about six courses of Spanish and Canarian food with matched wines? We went to try the new tasting menu at La Bandera.
At Finest, we’re all about hidden gems and La Bandera is the kind of place that flies under your radar if you’re not careful. Savvy Manchester foodies know that this little, long-standing restaurant on a back street just off King Street West is serving some of the best Spanish food in the city.
Yes, you will find a fantastic, varied tapas menu here, alongside some hearty main courses but did you know there is also a six-course tasting menu at La Bandera that will take you on a trip around Spain – complete with matched wine?
Spain is the third biggest producer of wine in the world, and has the most vineyards. Its wines are globally renowned and hugely varied in style and flavour. If you’ve only ever tried Rioja and want to explore some of Spain’s other wines, carefully matched to some classic Spanish dishes, the wine matching option here is an ideal way to do so.
All the best meals start with a glass of fizz and Cava is Spain’s famous sparkler. Cava is made in exactly the same way as Champagne, the one we are brought as soon as we sit down has a touch more sweetness than some, it’s a lovely simple and fruity start to proceedings. Our charming server Maisie tells us that Cava is always served at weddings and the Spanish traditionally have it before a meal to cleanse the palate. On an empty stomach, it also gives you a little buzz as you get excited about the meal ahead.
Our stomachs aren’t empty for long as our first course – a zingy cod ceviche – arrives moments after the Cava. Fresh cod is cured in lime juice with red onion, fresh coriander and a confetti of fresh red chilli. It reminds us more of Mexico but is popular in modern Spain too as it’s so cool and fresh – perfect in hot weather. It pairs well with the Cava as that touch of sweetness counteracts the mild bite from the chilli. The acidity in both the wine and ceviche lights up our tastebuds for more.
Next up is La Bandera’s award-winning croquetas de gambas. These crispy croquettes filled with king prawn studded béchamel are served on a sweet Canarian piquillo pepper marmalade. They look stunning and taste so good we could eat a bucketful. They are served with a Ugalde Rosado, Tempranillo, Rioja, 2021. Described as a ‘happy accident’, this rosé made from Garnacha and Tempranillo grapes was destined to be a red wine but the winemaker took the skins out too soon resulting in a densely coloured rosé or a very light red depending on which way you look at it. This is a fruit bomb with a nose like Robinson’s strawberry squash and light enough not to overpower those delicate prawns.
Though the tasting menu at La Bandera encompasses all parts of Spain, the team behind the restaurant are originally from the Canary Islands. Next up is a Canarian speciality and our favourite dish of the menu. Puchero Cabra, a goat stew. Goat is a popular meat in many cultures but Canarian goats, Cabra Majorera, produce some of the highest grade meat you can eat. The people of the Canary islands are very proud of this delicious national dish and it’s easy to see why. It’s slow cooked til meltingly soft and has a delicate, creamy flavour which is enhanced by the tomato and vegetable based sauce it’s cooked in. There are soft cubes of potato jumbled up with the chunks of goat meat which remind us of the magical way the Spanish seem to have with spuds. Topped with crispy sweet potato, this dish pairs well with our first red wine of the night, a rich and fruity Rioja crianza made from Tempranillo grapes.
Next we enjoy a fruity sorbet to reset our tastebuds before going back to the sea with La Bandera’s unique take on a classic octopus dish. This octopus is twice cooked: first the chefs ‘scar’ the octopus by blanching it and then it is deep fried to create a lovely crispy skin. The striking, whole tentacle is served on a paprika mash and matched with a crisp, white Albariño from Rias Baixas in Galicia.
And if that wasn’t luxury enough, our final savoury course from La Bandera is a beautiful thinly sliced sirloin steak served medium rare with an intense truffle and mushroom sauce, sprinkled with balsamic pearls. It’s served with another Tempranillo – the key Rioja grape but grown a little further south in the Ribera Del Duero which brings out all that lovely sun-baked fruit flavour but still has plenty of vanilla from the oak ageing. A classic steak wine.
Lastly, we are treated to three scoops of creamy helado (aka ice cream) in pistachio, coconut and ginger flavours with a sprinkling of crushed meringue and dried fruit. A nice light end to the meal enriched by the liquid Xmas pudding that is Spain’s famous Pedro Ximénez sherry.
One thing we loved about La Bandera’s tasting menu is that it’s not padded out with endless carbs but it fills you up on quality protein prepared with maximum flavour by the talented kitchen team. It’s a great way to explore dishes you might not have tried before and to get a bit more adventurous with your wine choices. The tasting menu is £59 per person with an optional added wine flight at £30pp. Try it for your next date night treat.