People who like winter more than summer are just weird, and I'm not sure we should trust them.
However, when it comes to getting fed maybe those strange folk have got a point, is right now the tastiest time of year?
Before you ask, I’m not referring to those Christmas dinner butties at your favourite supermarket, or even pigs in blankets, I’m talking low and slow roasted meats, earthy, caramelised root veg and abundant crisp greens. Perhaps not what you’d expect from Portuguese tapas joint Canto, however the autumn/winter collection is out and it’s packed with all this season’s best flavours.
Inside things are feeling really rather festive too. The bar is busy with glassy-eyed smiles, everything seems to be shimmering and no one wants to contemplate going outdoors any time soon.
Begin by indulging in mushroom croquetas, smooth bechamel cloaked in the lightest of breadcrumb coating and served with a smoky, sweet black garlic mayo. The filling should be more firmly set but the flavours work well together. Next pea and saffron risotto is, for me, a little over-saturated with cheese, which leaves little opportunity for any spice to come through and spoils the consistency somewhat, it’s closer to rice pudding than risotto. The pan fried fillets of sea bream atop are perfectly judged though and probably deserve a little better from their accompaniment.
After a slow start things pick up quickly, Pig cheek stewed with chestnuts and layered upon sauteed kale and iberico ham mash is quite brilliant. It’s exactly the sort of comfort you crave at this time of year and that treacle-thick gravy reduction should provide a nice layer to protect your insides from the outsides. Following that, a pair of flash-grilled, seared and spiced chicken kebabs, packed together with cabbage slaw in to a garlic buttered flatbread. It might not particularly match anything else we were trying, but then I’d probably order it all over again anyway.
Vegetarian sides are also well judged, tender florets of slightly singed cauliflower with a fresh splash of salsa verde and spiced cannellini beans provide further heartiness. Similarly a plate of perfectly al dente tenderstem broccoli in garlic and chilli is simple enough, but well executed nonetheless.
Even better than those though, is a plate of thinly sliced sweet potato, dressed in delicately fragrant orange and mint honey, roughly arranged on white bean puree before a scattering of blackened pumpkin seeds finishes things with a flourish. The sweet fruit and nutty notes all combine beautifully and it’s an undeniably attractive thing to look at.
Cake as a restaurant dessert can seem a little less than indulgent but this white chocolate sauce-topped carrot cake is a star in the making. A cluster of crisp roasted carrot shavings are sweet, savoury and a surprisingly excellent way to set off a pud.
Sack off the shopping and come to get Christmassy. Order what’s in season or just prop up the bar, pilling up small plates you fancy, with 3 dishes for £15 before 6pm Wednesday to Saturday and all day Sunday Canto is definitely one of those gifts you need to give yourself this December.
Cutting Room Square, Blossom St, Manchester, M4 5DH
0161 870 5904