Levanter Fine Foods, 10 Square Street, Ramsbottom, BL0 9BE – Visit Now
Ramsbottom isn’t somewhere you’d once have thought of going for authentic Spanish food – but Levanter Fine Foods has changed that.
Levanter Fine Foods seems wrong. It’s a tapas bar in a postage-stamp sized unit, hidden away on a side street in Ramsbottom, itself hidden away in the hills along the Lancashire edge of Bury. When Levanter landed in my ‘hood last spring, with its elegant, boho-chic interior and artisan tapas, it seemed like a colossal mix-up. Had we gotten Manchester’s restaurant by mistake? Somewhere in the Northern Quarter there’s a really mediocre new tapas bar serving bland patatas bravas and boil-in-the-bag paella, right?
No mistake. When they were ready to make the leap from street food traders to restauranteurs, chef-owners Joe and Fiona Botham considered the Northern Quarter, but decided to stay near their home in Rossendale – a practical move given the fact that they have four children under ten. But also good business sense. It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, and way, way less expensive if you’re just starting out.
The place is regularly packed and the national press has already got wind of it
Coming early is prudent, especially on weekend evenings – they don’t take bookings and the place can only seat 40, at a push. If there’s no table, don’t despair, just join the good-natured throng at the bar. They serve only Spanish beverages here; standouts include an unusually good choice of sherries and interesting beers like Er Boqueron, brewed with seawater in Valencia. There’s also a thoughtfully chosen selection of Spanish wine available by the glass or bottle, and their most expensive bottle costs £25 (yeah, we’re definitely not in Manchester now).
Levanter’s menu of £4-£6 tapas dishes changes weekly depending on what’s at its best – and they put a lot of thought into where those ingredients come from. The Bothams were so unhappy with the quality of Spanish produce here they started importing their own; all their jamon, morcilla, chorizo and olive oil comes from a small town in Andalucía where they used to live.
The kitchen is pretty basic: a small corner of the room holding two hobs, two small fryers, an oven and a plancha. This setup can make for stressful times when two tables order their hand-rolled croquetas, fried aubergines in honey and chicken wings all at once, for instance. But kitchen be damned, you should order all of these things – sorry, Joe, but they’re pretty fantastic. As are Levanter’s padron peppers and garlicky gambas pil pil, both of which are usually on the menu.
Lately, diners have also been able to try spicy lamb tagine, juicy pork belly ribs, an Andalusian fish stew jostling with smoked haddock and red snapper in a pimenton broth, or Fabada, a hearty Asturian winter dish with ham hocks, sausage and beans. Just the thing to fortify food tourists for that tram ride back to the city. And if you live in Ramsbottom, congratulations: you’ve got one more thing to be smug about.