Lunya Manchester, Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2BB – Visit Now
The best tapas in the city? We review Manchester’s new Catalan restaurant and deli, Lunya.
First we took their ships, now Manchester is taking Liverpool’s restaurants. Thankfully, this time, we’ve just got an extra branch or two opening up, rather than attempting to steal a whole industry. Following on from Liverpool’s Mowgli appearing in Manchester’s latest culinary coup, The Corn Exchange, this October Barton Arcade welcomed Catalan and Spanish deli and restaurant Lunya to its Deansgate-facing side (opposite Pot Kettle Black).
Lunya has a bar and the sort of deli Manchester city centre has been sorely lacking on the ground floor, with the restaurant part up a flight of stairs. It’s smaller than you’d first imagine, especially considering the rumoured million pound investment in the venture. But make no mistake: this is an impressive setup.
The bright reds and yellows that decorate both floors match a number of Catalan flags about the place, highlighting that Lunya is keen to be seen specifically as a Catalan restaurant, rather than the all-encompassing Spanish; this fact is noticeable again when you take a closer look at where much of the food and wine is sourced.
My dining companion suggested we should have perhaps listened to our waiter about quantity
The menu is huge, and though it can be difficult to know where to start, our waiter was more than willing to help to steer us through our Catalan food trip. The first recommendation was the one we were most intrigued by – a hot pot, merging North West and Catalan styles. Unfortunately, this turned out to be fairly stodgy and tasteless – but was also the only dud of the night.
There was gambas pil pil, full of garlic, salt and oil, that has us lost for words, powerfully addictive chicken strips (and there’s the problem with tapas) and croquettes that were remarkably fresh. The highlight, however, was the amazingly sweet Ibérico Bellota Salchichó, strips of tender, subtly sweetened pig from Catalonia. By the time the sweetened deep fried goats cheese had arrived, my dining companion suggested we should have perhaps listened to our waiter about quantity. And did we hold back from one of the most decadent dishes so far? Certainly not.
Finally, when desert that we no longer had room for was offered we politely accepted regardless, and were glad we did. Lunya’s Churros – a dish so often dealt a raw deal by over-sweetened chocolate and over-heavy oil – were presented with a bitterness and a softness that demonstrated how this is a far more elegant (is that a stretch for fried dough and hot chocolate?) dessert than it’s often found to be.
All in all, the bright colours and easygoing staff in Lunya belie the quality of the food – and the expense. With dishes averaging out around £7.50, and with the staff’s recommendation of three to four a person (meaning that we went for five each, of course), you’re looking at a pricey meal.
Still, Lunya is an expensive, indulgent and very welcome addition to Manchester’s many (and often ageing) tapas restaurants. It’s the kind of place that will welcome you warmly when you decide to eschew your New Year’s resolutions of either saving money – or your waistline.