Manchester has a strong bond with Spain, and few parts of the city is this more evident than Deansgate. Considered by many to be the epicentre of town, it’s here we find both Instituto Cervantes, a language and cultural hub, and a little further down, El Rincón de Rafa. Both are part of the street’s fabric, with the latter having served people food inspired by the home of paella and tapas since 1994.
Something of a hidden gem, smack bang in the thick of things but tucked away from the main thoroughfare, customers can expect several things on arrival. Firstly, owner-founder Rafael Cabrera-Vargas is always there, a man who has been in the hospitality and restaurant trade since the 1980s, palette passed down through generations, with a number of recipes winding up at El Rincón de Rafa. The focus being traditional dishes amounting to one of the most complete tapas menus in the city.
Chorizo, pollo paprika, albondigas and patatas bravas, and the berenjenas fritas are among the most popular choices, but with 45 individual small plates on offer there’s plenty more. From lamb chops in lemon and white wine, chickpeas, tripe, chorizo and black pudding to Spanish cured ham, deep fried squid, and white bean, chorizo, and pancetta broth, the options are genuinely authentic.
Group set menus for eight or more offer a good introduction to what this place is about for large tables, and a limited range of full-sized mains are also available — paella being one. As you would hope, the wine list is packed with excellent Spanish bottles, with sangria for summer evenings. And, as Rafa played for both Manchester United and Stockport County in and among his career in catering the place is packed with personality and incredible memorabilia. As such it’s no wonder celebrities including Justin Timberlake and the cast of Coronation Street have been spotted here. Special occasions, such as baby showers, can be catered for, and all inquiries are welcome. Bookings are not taken online, though, so call 0161 839 8819.