Tast Cuina Catalana, 20-22 King Street, Manchester, M2 6AG – Visit Now
“Tradition with a twist.” That’s how the manager of Tast describes the menu, and she’s not wrong. Tast is the latest restaurant to hit Manchester’s King Street, taking over the space recently vacated by the excellent Suri, offering a selection of Catalan – not Spanish, we’re told, firmly – dishes courtesy of renowned Head Chef Paco Perez.
Of course, the headline news is that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is a backer, but the news that two Michelin star Perez is at the helm is far more exciting for the food-lovers of Manchester, and indeed the rest of the UK.
Two Michelin star Head Chef Paco Perez is at the helm
Today we’re at an event that presents some of the most interesting dishes on the menu, and the first doesn’t disappoint. The Duck’In Donut is one of Perez’s famed dishes, dating back to 2012. It’s a cute copyright-infringing dish – a mini white chocolate donut, filled with duck liver paté, with a light dusting of raspberry on top. It’s weird, no doubt, but it works. The saltiness of the paté merges well with the chocolate, with the raspberry dust adding a subtle second layer of sweetness. It’s not a total crowd-pleaser – some of my fellow diners pass on a second bite – but it’s well worth trying for you more experimental diners.
Two types of croquettes turn up, one with a red pepper filling, roast chicken in the other. They’re top-quality light bites, crunchy on the outside, with a smooth moreish filling. The Sandwich De Formatge Trufat is another Perez classic, this time from 2017 (the rest are newly-created for Tast). Two melt-in-the-mouth wafers form a kind of alternate-universe sandwich, containing a little blog of Toude til-lers cheese and a couple of potent shavings of black truffle. It’s a clear indication of Perez’s style: taking classic ingredients and dishes, and making them almost unrecognisable but greatly improved.
Then it’s time for a simple plate of asparagus and tomato, drizzled with a fantastically-sour melted cheese. Each ingredient is powerfully-flavoured, combining wonderfully. It’s admittedly less dramatic than the other plates, but proves an instant classic.
Perez takes classic ingredients and dishes, and makes them almost unrecognisable but greatly improved
The Espinacs A La Catalana is one of the most remarkable dishes on the menu. It’s an unusual looking plate, all murky earthy colours thanks to a smooth spinach sauce that contains a scattering of raisins and pine nuts, holding a nest of spinach leaves and a blob of pine nut ice cream. Sounds bizarre, right? Have a spoonful of everything together and all becomes clear. The pine nut ice cream isn’t sweet or desserty, so makes an ideal accompaniment to the dank spinach flavours, with the raisins adding an occasional dash of sweetness. It’s a must-try dish, and one of Tast’s best.
The Tomaquet I Bou De Mar is more divisive. It looks like some kind of cartoon jellyfish, a big orange blob dotted with green splotches, covering a pile of shredded King crab meat. The only way to describe it as a sort of seafood trifle, with a tomato-flavoured jelly speckled with basil oil. If that sounds appealing, then go nuts. For me, it was a step too far – I’m all for experimentation and fusion cuisine, but the trifle is sacred. It does not need seafoodifiying.
The eel dish, aka Anguila All I Pebre returns us to normality. Glorious little silver-skinned chunk of fresh eel, on a bed of smooth mashed potato, swimming in a deeply satisfying umami sauce that’s so earthy it’s practically obscene.
And then the finest dish of the entire meal. Arros De Verdures, or in English, vegetable rice. It might sound unspectacular but it’s anything but. It arrives on a long rectangular board, like a framed work of art, all pastoral colours and countryside swagger, with a centimetre thin layer of stuck-together rice flecked with little pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom and blobs of delightful herb mayonnaise. It’s best-described as the most coveted part of paella, the solid part that gets stuck to the base of the pan. Utterly brilliant, and another must-try option on an endlessly fascinating menu.
Finally, the Pinya, Toffee I Mango, a slice of pineapple, with the contents removed and replaced with a pleasingly light custard containing lumps of mango and pineapple, plus a scoop of ice cream with a swoosh of toffee sauce across it. A fine palate-cleansing end to a fascinating, boundary-pushing meal.