Michelin starred chefs and celebrity investors have no doubt been the talk of Tast since it took on the task of bringing Catalan cuisine to the Manchester masses.
But the latest concept to take on the King Street site, which has brought little success so far for Quill and Suri, will need to survive on its food alone- and it’s made a pretty solid start.
We’re lucky to have a glut of fantastic Spanish restaurants to choose from these days, none would describe themselves as fine dining though, not at this level at least.
So in that sense, Tast has certainly found itself a niche, and it’s both refreshing and exciting that our city has a genuinely high-end experimental kitchen free from modern British influence. Last week we were invited down to try a few of the dishes chosen to make an impression on the city’s diners.
First up a play on words and the senses, with a dish from the Paco Perez playbook, and one of his starred restaurants, The Miramar. White chocolate and sharp raspberry dusting, dubbed Duck’in donuts, bring to my mind those lonely leftovers from a well-perused box of Thornton’s. Here though, they’re filled with foie gras, which may improve or disprove them depending on your persuasion. Either way, it sets the tone for a whimsical selection of ‘tastets’, the word of Catalan origin which has been used to describe Tast’s dishes.
Croquettes are ever more crowd-pleasing and don’t see much of a Michelin-style makeover either. Red pepper and roast chicken make up the fillings and both are everything you should expect from the classic Spanish bite. The chicken ones were reminiscent of the gravy krokets you get out of vending machines in Amsterdam. I wasn’t complaining, they’re supposed to be an indulgent experience after all.
The first dish to properly impress are light crackers stuffed with richly oozing Tou de til-lers cheese and shavings of confit truffle. The crisp airy texture and pungent filling produces playfully perfect bites that cry out for a similarly intense red, Mas Petit from the Penedes region in Catalonia steps up to the mark.
I like my asparagus on the raw side of rare, so our next dish disappoints a little. Charred cherry tomato and a tangy melted Bauma cheese bring their own charmed but the overly done veg leaves this feeling like a missed opportunity.
A classic Catalan combination of Spinach, pine nuts and raisins was swoon-worthy, and a fair example of what’s trying to be achieved here. Old school local dishes most won’t have experienced in these parts given a little stardust, here for example with a dollop of pine nut ice cream, the result is effective.
I’m not particularly proud of my snaps throughout the evening but reached a low point with this one, which is a shame because it tasted fantastic. Digging deep into that king crab mousse for the meat and scooping up red chilli and basil oil along the way is a real pleasure.
For me, the stand out dish was hands down the eel. Flaky flesh and oily elastic skin made the ideal textural counterpoint to creamy piped mashed potato, then an umami-packed chilli broth brings everything together, a real bowl-licker that one.
I don’t know why I was surprised to learn that the Spanish have a word for a paella’s best bit, we’ve got a word for the highlight of your chippy tea, but scraps doesn’t sound sexy as socarrat. I’m talking about the crisp, caramelised bottom layer that competing spoons fence for, Tast will serve you a whole delicious tray of the stuff. We ate the vegetarian version made with a delicious mushroom stock punctuated with greens and blobs of herb mayo.
Whoever decided to start charring pineapple is really on to something, our final plate also combined toffee and mango for a tropical finish to a stimulating meal. There’s clearly plenty more to come from Tast Catala, and it’s exciting for this city to play host to a restaurant with so much potential.
20-22 King St, Manchester, M2 6AG
0161 806 0547