Enxaneta is a new fine-dining gastronomic experience on the upper floor of Tast by multi-Michelin starred chef Paco Perez.
There are two exclusive menus to choose from ‘Deu’ (ten courses) and ‘Quinze’ (fifteen courses) which take you on a sensory journey designed to make you feel at home… Mr. Perez’s home to be exact, and I must say they have hit the nail on the head.
If you have read any of my work before, you will know that I love anything with a really tight concept- even if it doesn’t make much sense- so strap in this one needs some explaining.
Enxaneta takes its name from the person who is at the top of a ‘Castell’ – a form of human tower that is popular in many towns, villages and even cities throughout Catalonia. The idea is to compete against each other to create the highest tower with the most people – regardless of the clear dangers.
These two menus are inspired by the method in which the Catalans count the height of these towers, so I suppose instead of courses you have…people? Figuratively? Wait no, I’ve made it weird now. Let’s just move onto the food.
We began with the Amanida Cesar– a play on the world’s most popular salad which came in the form of a chilled lettuce soup with a crispy parmesan roll filled with chicken mousse. After instruction by the staff to take a bite of the tube followed by a sip of the soup, I can confidently confirm that it was indeed like a Caesar salad and a lovely, fresh, and strangely innovative way to start the meal.
A spin on the classic Padron Pepper came next. This was far from the noble simplicity of the ones you would eat in a cosy tapas restaurant and instead took all the elements of flavour, texture and flipped them on their head.
The dish is rather difficult to explain – but in the simplest of terms it’s a padron pepper crisp with a savoury pepper custard, topped off with a spicy gel. You were encouraged to eat it whole – as you would with the traditional padron pepper.
A traditional Catalan doughnut was filled with a runny squab pigeon filling which burst in the mouth and ran the meaty liquor down your throat. Bunyol De Caca was an acquired taste, but I personally enjoyed the contrast between the slightly sweet doughnut dough and savoury, meaty pigeon filling.
The Bunyol marked the end of the ‘snacks’ portion of the evening and we promptly moved further up the tower and on to the more substantial dishes. The first of these was Ou Benedict, Mari which was perplexingly described as a ‘Sea Benedict Egg’ and it is safe to say I hadn’t the foggiest of what any of these words meant.
Nonetheless, this is where the expert team of waiters came in handy. Tim and Fillippo were fantastic at explaining each painstakingly complicated element in every dish in an informative way which was still somehow relaxed and jovial. The whole thing felt incredibly accessible which is often a hard thing to find in a fine-dining context.
Turns out, this dish was a spin on an eggs benedict (duh) with an ‘egg’ made from a salmon roe ‘yolk’ and a mushroom ‘white’ served with samphire, white asparagus and seaweed hollandaise which had more umami punch than a slap in the face from a kipper.
However, it has to be said that the seaweed oil dotted around the plate was a little bit too much for me, the odd twinge of algae drew my attention away from all the other delicious elements of the dish which was a little bit of a shame.
Next was Xampinyons en la Seva Diversitat which roughly translates as ‘button mushroom diversity’. I must say it was nice to see the humble button mushroom hailed over the fancier varieties such as chanterelles or oysters – I do love a chef who can find beauty in the simplest of ingredients.
The dish was made up of a thick(ish) set custard with mushrooms served barbequed and raw. Finally, this was finished off with a Koji and mushroom consomme which was deep and dark and everything I wanted it to be.
A few more bodies were added to our proverbial ‘tower’ as we moved on to a pair of fish dishes. First was Canelo D’ Escamarlans – cannelloni filled with lobster and finished off with a glossy and flavourful white sauce spiked with white wine. It came served with a lobster tartare on the side which was a welcome contrast of flavour, temperature and texture.
The second was a rice dish made with lobster and deboned chicken wing which is singly one of the most delicious pieces of chicken I have ever stuffed down my gullet. It was over too soon. Rich, flavourful and full of depth this dish felt unapologetically authentic to me whilst still managing to teeter on the edge of fine dining.
Out of the plethora of dishes formed of various gels, consumes and foams, this Arros De Pollastre was a refreshing true taste of Catalan home cooking.
On to the meat, the Wagyu En Dos Serveis came in two equally sublime parts. Wagyu beef is highly regarded as some of the best in the world, and this pair of dishes is an excellent example of why. Be that as it may, I do not want to give all the credit to the meat itself. At Tast, an excellent product is treated with care, knowledge and finesse and the results were outstanding.
The first ‘movement’ of this two-part exploration of elegant beef was a generous quenelle of wagyu beef tartare with egg yolk, caviar and a crystal clear consume. It melted in the mouth and absorbed all of its delicious flavours into every pore on my mouth and tongue. I would even go as far as saying it was borderline orgasmic.
This was closely followed by a dangerously tender pan-fried fillet of wagyu beef served with thick glossy demi-glace polenta foam and roasted sweet potatoes. Get ready for a big statement, but I have never had beef this delicious.
You could taste the sweet fat that marbled throughout and in-between every single fibre of the beef. It melted into buttery nothingness and coated your entire mouth and while we ate, our table of four was utterly silent. This dish, in both parts, was truly majestic.
Dessert rolled around and we finished on the sweet notes of Pijama. This was a sweet of many elements including peach jelly, raspberry granite, strawberry water and finished with a banana and blueberry syrup.
Finally was Xcolata I Galetes (chocolate and biscuits) which was a playful plate of chocolate ganache, crumbs, created chocolate and a light milk chocolate ice cream. It was simple and nostalgic and just the finish we needed after a heavy eight courses.
Over coffee, chocolates and some quiet contemplation, our table concluded that this menu was indeed fantastic. I haven’t got a wide knowledge of Catalan cuisine, but there is a certain ‘soul’ rooted in the menu despite it being modern fine-dining at its very core.
The Enxaneta experience certainly brings a new level of sophistication to the already elegant Tast. Be that as it may, it still manages to be approachable, friendly and relaxed which certainly comes from the sunny disposition of the staff and the interior which is comforting and snazzy all at once.
It is like dinner at a friend’s house if your friend was a Michelin star chef from Catalonia who happens to have two fabulous waiters-come-sommeliers to hand.
Paco Perez is a multi-Michelin star chef and his level of virtuosity certainly shows in this menu despite the fact that Tast is starless (at the moment anyway). Balanced, fresh and with Catalonia at its heart, I couldn’t help but buy into the concept whole-heartedly.
It was certainly nice to chat with the man himself on the evening as we caught him on one of his monthly visits. Perhaps next time I won’t be so lucky as to catch Mr Perez himself, but I can assure you, there will certainly be a next time and a time after that at the very least.
Tast Catalana Cucina, 20 – 22 King Street, Manchester, M2 6AG#
0161 806 0547