There are a few things that are brilliant about tapas: first, you get to try a whole range of food combinations and flavour – especially if you do it properly and ditch the English reservation about sharing plates with friends – and second, the size of the dishes means that you don’t sink your stomach. And let’s not forget, both Spain and Italy know a thing or two about pairing foods with wine. So, from Michelin Starred chefs to critically-acclaimed restaurants out in the sticks, here are our top places for tapas.
Here are our picks
Ibérica not only boasts a glittering £2m fit-out, it also has a three Michelin Starred chef behind the scenes. The brilliantly named Nacho Manzano serves up high-end tapas including black rice with squid, prawns and alioli sauce, Padrón peppers with Maldon salt, and asparagus, Manchego and onion confit with truffle oil on toast. There’s also a respectable list of sherries, and moreish deserts that include la tarta de la abuela. Luxury on a small scale.
There are two branches of this award-winning wine bar and Spanish tapas restaurant: there’s more room for manoeuvre in the high ceilinged Deansgate space, but the snug corner spot in the Northern Quarter is more authentically busy and bustling. The menu features both hot (caliente) and cold (frio) tapas, including a range of chorizo, jamón, bread and cheese, as well as more complicated dishes such as albondigas (meatballs with wine and tomato sauce) and filetitos (chilli fillet steak).
At San Carlo Cicchetti, the food is firmly in the spotlight: not strictly tapas, but similar, the offer here is cicchetti, or the traditional Italian small plates that are served up in Venetian bars. These include things like deep fried mozzarella balls, salt cod croquettes and shredded duck on rocket. Order as many dishes as you can from the extensive menu and share between friends – the idea is to fit as many plates as you can on restaurant’s the marble topped tables.
Levanter Fine Foods is in Ramsbottom. Yes, it’s a little trip to get there from the city centre, but the journey is definitely worth it. Weave it into a day trip if you have to, just don’t miss things like gambas pil pil (prawns with chilli and garlic) and aubergines with honey, cooked from specially-imported ingredients, alongside exclusively Spanish beverages. The place is small, though, so arrive early and be prepared to wait.
El Gato Negro Tapas upped sticks from the Pennine village of Ripponden in December 2014, bringing its awards and accolades to Manchester city centre. It now lives in a rather stunning historic building on King Street. El Gato specialises in high end tapas, with luxurious Spanish ingredients and flavours making up the backbone of the menu – we can very highly recommend it.