El Gato Negro Tapas – Manchester

“Finally made it. And yes, The Black Cat can still do it”

Bit late to the party! El Gato has been wowing the Manchester scene with its high end Spanish tapas for a couple of years now. After a few abortive attempts I finally took The Flame along for a pre-gig tea.

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I’ve been a few times for cocktails and have marvelled at the quality of the fit out that has been applied to this fine, three story, former retail outlet. It was pitched straight into the pedestrianised high end clothing scene in King Street. It was a strange location at the time, but it seems to have held its own despite a couple of other close by failures.

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There a swathes of polished oak, and potentially lots of cattle have laid down their lives for the seat coverings, (though I’m sure high quality faux may have been used!). If you’re really interested in the fit out, Sian Astley describes it far better than me in her Moregeous blog link here.

We were on the second floor facing out to ‘Jack Wills’ and ‘Rapha’. Arguably the ‘golden table,’ it was a cracking spec. The menu preamble from chef patron Simon Shaw suggested three tapas each to start, so we duly obliged. A bottled pale ale and a mango fizz started the liquid proceedings.

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Within minutes the sourdough bread with oil and balsamic, the mixed salad with avocado and the Serrano ham with celeriac roulade were in place ready for battle.

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Further down the line my chargrilled octopus with capers and the morcilla scotch eggs on a mushroom duxelle with aioli arrived. Both triumphs. The soft grilled richness of the ‘pus’ offset wonderfully by the pickling and sharpness of the shallot and caper. The soft boiled quails eggs revealed their innards to perfection after bequeathing their meaty outer shell of blood and crumb, truly historic.

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In keeping with the tapas tradition, whereby chef simply releases the dish as soon as it is ready, it was a fairly lengthy wait for the final flourish of chicken thighs with mijo picon and shallots. Worth the wait though.

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I then had a traditional almond tart with cream to finish. I begrudgingly allowed the two spoon option, thus allowing The Flame a morsel or two. All in, the event turned in at a fairly hefty £72, which for a quick tea might take some swallowing for some. Its quality stuff though and walking round the place it soon became apparent that the place is holding up well. Most tables were full and the third floor boasts a retractable roof giving it a tremendous outdoor feel.

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We loved it, definitely put it on the list for a special event on your next visit to Manchester.

El Gato Negro Tapas,
52 King Street,
Manchester,
M2 4LY

0161 694 8585

http://www.elgatonegrotapas.com

 

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The Hinchcliffe – Cragg Vale, Hebden Bridge

 “A tucked away gem. My Hinch was well and truly cliffed”

 Whilst plotting a Sunday out in Yorkshire to meet some chums, I stumbled across The Hinchcliffe Arms in Cragg Vale, three and half miles outside Hebden Bridge. To add to my glee I also stumbled on the whereabouts of one of my long time favourite chefs, Robert Owen Brown. He has previously shot and cooked his way through various short lived enterprises in Manchester. He specialises in game.

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The Hinch is set in a glorious, leafy glade deep in the Vale of Cragg, beside an incredible church. It’s a beguiling first impression. Wonderfully understated.

Stepping in there’s a Scottish feel to the place, tartan flooring, simple country trimmings rounded off with glorious open fires. Thankfully they were switched off as it was a hot and humid Hebden today! The Scottish theme continued as our friendly hosts welcomed us with a Scottish lilt.

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We surveyed the beautifully presented menu, bound in tan leather whilst quaffing the Hinch pale ale. The offer is trademark Owen Brown. Seasonal, local, quality. My type of menu.

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We started with new season asparagus, Rob’s own smoked haddock with jersey royals, the crispy black pudding potato cake with a (sadly) hard poached egg, a sensational goats cheese salad and a delightfully, vibrant, fresh garden pea soup. Ranging from £5 to £7 they were all superb. Lightly smoked haddock, tangy goats cheese and tremendous black pudding.

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Two sprightly old dears recommended the sharing platter Sunday roast. Feeds two for £30. I reckon four could have gone away happy! A poussin, three or slices of glorious rare beef and three or four slices of arguably the star of the show, locally reared pork with all the trimmings…..and some ratatouille. Truly incredible. The finest roast Ive had in a long while. The girls had flash fried mackerel and the loin of cod. Both beautifully cooked and presented.

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To finish….what else….Vimto trifle and a scrumptious banana sponge with  a salted caramel and banana syrup.

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As there was four of us, catching up on the news, service was perfect, though I dare say a young couple eager to get home for ‘Love Island’ may have found it a little pedestrian. We were in the there a good two and a half hours. The bill came in at £130, we were all seriously chuffed with our lot. The Hinch is truly a find. The epitome of a country pub, presumably one of JW Lees finest? I cant wait to go back on a full a la carte day to get another fix of the magic of Owen Brown and his team. A definite Cooktwit recommend.

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The Hinchcliffe Country Pub & Restaurant
Cragg Vale,
Hebden Bridge,
West Yorkshire,
HX7 5TA,
+44 1422 883256
ww.thehinchcliffe.co.uk