Lunya Manchester, Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2BB – Visit Now
Lunya has long been a Creative Tourist favourite – both the original Liverpool restaurant and the equally-lauded Manchester branch. The latter is based in the dazzling Barton Arcade, accessed from Deansgate, consisting of a deli, bar and restaurant.
The theme is Spanish tapas, but more specifically Catalonian cuisine – a wildly diverse combination of Mediterranean ingredients, that focuses heavily on porks, cheeses, seafood and fresh vegetables. The menu is vast – there are two pages devoted entirely to cheese – but the main tapas section is split into three: vegetable, fish and meat.
Our advice? Put the menu down and ask your server to recommend a few dishes. Our waitress waxes lyrical about two specific items from the meat menu: the Abanico Iberica and the Morcilla, aka the Catalan black pudding.
The former is a muscle from the shoulder of the Iberico pig, also known as ‘secreto’ – the butcher’s secret. It’s fantastic, soft, salty and with a hint of sweetness from the pigs’ acorn diet, served with a beer and shallot purée and Lunya’s homemade red onion marmalade.
In contrast to this traditional dish, the Morcilla is a much more interesting creation, unique to Lunya. These are spheres of Catalan black pudding, rolled in cornflakes before being deep fried. They’re then coated with an orange and honey syrup which counteracts the earthy, almost-metallic kick of the meat. It’s an unusual plate, full of varied textures and big bold flavours, and if you have a curious palate you owe it to yourself to try it.
Such dark meat-heavy plates need balancing out, and the woodland mushrooms provide an ideal contrast. Fried in aromatic Arbequina olive oil, with little strips of Serrano ham and slices of asparagus, it’d be a push to describe it as a healthy option but it provides a fresh, light lift to the palate.
The Monte Enebro goats cheese is possibly the most moreish thing on the menu. Pungent, tangy goats cheese, doubled down on the calories by deep frying – hell, why not – then drizzled with Alemany orange blossom honey and scattered with beetroot crisps. If you ate it every day you’d be the size of a house, but a very happy, content house indeed.
The Pulpo also comes highly recommended – this is a kind of pared-down hot pot, consisting of strips of chargrilled octopus, potato slices, liberally coated in smoked paprika and sea salt. It’s a hearty, homely plate that magically combines the sun and sea of Barcelona with, er, Betty’s hot pot from Corrie.
When Lunya do seafood, they do it very well indeed. The chipirones (aka baby squid) are addictive little nibbles, made all the more perfect by the creamy Catalan allioli.
Desserts scrub up well too. The pick of the bunch is the Crema Catalana, a twist on the traditional creme brulee that infuses orange peel and cinnamon into the custard, with a wonderfully brittle caramel lid. The San Sebastian burnt cheesecake is a divisive choice. It’s a baked cheesecake, lighter than you’d expect, cooked at a high temperature to give it a caramelised, slightly burnt crust. The accompanying Pedro Ximénez infused raisins and roasted hazelnuts add a necessary sweetness, but the whole thing might prove a bit weighty for some diners.
Despite competition from the likes of relative newcomers like the patchy El Gato Negro and troubled old-timers like Spinningfields’ Iberica, Lunya remains by far the best Spanish restaurant in Manchester and has a strong case for being one of the very best, full stop.