King Street. Historically one of the most affluent areas of Manchester City Centre with a plethora of good restaurants dominating in their own field. You’ve got the exquisite Grand Pacific and Rosso towering at the top of the hill, with El Gato Negro still a huge hit with visitors on a daily basis. But is King Street ready for ANOTHER Spanish, football owned restaurant? I went along to Tast to find out.
Tast Cuina Catalana is part owned by Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola and run by world renowned 2 time Michelin star chef Paco Perez. Set over 3 floors, the restaurant has kept the large windows that let in so much light, and the space is airy and fresh. The ground floor is a casual dining space where you can pop in for a glass of wine and some nibbles, the second floor is more formal for a dining experience, whilst the third floor is a private dining space with a tasting menu. I was expecting the restaurant to be pretentious, over the top and stuffy but, let me tell you, I could not have been more wrong. I can see myself regularly calling in for a glass of Catalonian wine whilst waiting for friends, and the Blancs De Pac is truly beautiful. Enough about that, onto the food.
Forget about tapas, Tast is all about ‘Tastets’. These small morsels of food are more complex than tapas but are served in a similar style so you can enjoy lots of different flavours as part of a meal, yet still in the presentation you would expect from a top restaurant. The selection of food I tried are all Paco’s favourites and showed us Catalan food at its best. These Croqueta De Pebrot Escalivat (red pepper croquettes) and Croqueta De Pollastre Rostit (chicken croquettes) started the evening well with a light yet crunchy shell, around a creamy chicken or red pepper centre. They were not dissimilar to croquettes I have tried elsewhere but they were tasty all the same and a nice introduction to our evening of food.
The Duck’in Donut was something that really got the table talking. Rich and smooth duck liver pate encased in a white chocolate shell with a dusting of tart raspberry powder. Seeing these arrive so early in the menu, I was wondering why dessert had arrived. They are so complex that they really divided the table with many thinking them a genius idea. I kind of sat on the fence, to be honest. I thought the idea was so adventurous and like nothing I had tried before. The flavours genuinely did work together but I felt the chocolate was a little too much and they would have been better had it only coated half, perhaps the base? I’m not sure, but I certainly didn’t not enjoy them.
My favourite Tastet of the night was the Sandwich De Formatge Trufat (tou de til-lers cheese and truffle confit) The ‘sandwich’ just melted in the mouth leaving a light yet creamy cheese and a delicate slither of truffle to deepen the flavour. I had never tried a cheese quite like this and it is something I will keep looking for whenever I am travelling so I can enjoy it again.
A surprise dish and not on our menu for the evening was Esparrecs Verds, Bauma, Cherry i Rucula (green asparagus, bauma cheese, cherry tomatoes and rocket). I am not a huge fan of asparagus and wouldn’t normally choose it from a menu, but this was firm and still with bite served on the bauma cheese which is mellow yet has real depth and a rich, savoury flavour.
My least favourite dish, although others around the table loved it, was the Espinacs A La Catalana (spinach with pine nuts and raisin). I liked the pureed spinach with the sweetness the raisins added to the dish, but the cream on top was frozen and the mix of hot and cold just didn’t work for me. That said, I think I was the only one who didn’t appreciate this so it may totally just be my tastebuds.
Onto the fish dishes and this beauty was another favourite. Tomaquet I Bou De Mar (king crab, tomato and basil) looks like it should have a blancmange style consistency but it was far from that. It looks ‘set’ but the topping is a tomato froth covering the king crab underneath for a complex mix of textures to confuse and excite the palate. It was truly delicious.
The last fish dish of the evening was Anguila All I Pebre (eel, potato and red chilli). I expected the eel to be slimy but it had a firm texture with a thin skin. The creamy mashed potato was delicious and a light fish broth brings the whole thing together, complimented by a slight heat from the chilli. I was really impressed with this dish and how unusual it was.
I’m not sure there is a single Spanish style of cuisine that does not include some form of baked rice and this one was incredible. Arros De Verdures (rice, vegetables and herb mayo) has a rich flavour with soft rice and firm vegetables, topped with a herb spiked mayonnaise to hold it all together. This was so much better than the paella dishes I have tried in other Spanish venues in the City so far.
To end the night we were treated to dessert and I was so pleased it was a light and fruit number. Pinya, Toffee I Mango (pineapple, toffee, mango and sage) is a real palate cleanser with tart pineapple as the base as well as pineapple chunks to add texture. The toffee gives a touch of richness to balance but not so much that the dish becomes heavy. I would absolutely order this next time I visit, although another diner had a chocolate dish that I desperately need to try.
Tast may seem to be a Spanish restaurant but it is so much more than that. The Catalan theme is unique and unlike anything I have tried before. The tasts are similar, on paper, to tapas but in reality are so much more refined and delicate. I love that the dishes are on the smaller side so you can enjoy more than one. I also love that, because of this, you can afford to be more daring as you haven’t spoiled your whole meal if you don’t like one of the plates you have ordered. In terms of another Spanish restaurant on King Street? There is plenty of room. This is Catalonian after all.
You can enjoy a selection of Paco Perez’s favourite dishes for £40 per person. Take your tastebuds on a trip around Catalan without leaving the City, you’ll be glad you have.
I was invited to dine as a guest of Tast and was not asked to pay for my meal.