I’m ashamed to say that despite the perks of this job being blatantly apparent last night was in fact the first time I’ve been to El Gato Negro. So in the interest of full disclosure I’ll make my opening statement brief: El Gato Negro Manchester is a couple of steps up from fantastic.
A sunny day in Manchester leads to another first of the evening, the first time El Gato had the opportunity to extend its presence on King Street that little bit more with the use of an awning. 6pm and it’s bustling with activity, sunglasses are out and all the stools are taken. But, not to worry, El Gato Negro had a trick up its sleeve, roof top bar. I get to the top and of course I’m not the only one to have this idea but there is room for 2 and nothing beats that feeling, the internal fist pump & silent “yes, get in.”
First it’s drinks and we start with a couple of Skwark beers, local company and a staple top 5 of mine if it’s on the menu. Tim spots a Quinoa vodka that pretty much makes his night, he lives in Chorlton. The roof top bar is a side to this review but if it’s nice and you have the time arrive early for dinner and take half an hour out up top, you won’t regret it.
On to the job at hand, food. We’re advised by the staff that 6 dishes for 2 is about right, after much indecision we opt for 7 because we simply can’t live without trying the Octopus. The staff were right. The portions are larger than expected and 6 dishes is plenty, our mistake, but I’d make it again and again, it was worth being overly full and trust me when I say whatever you do when you visit El Gato Negro, order the Octopus.
First dish out is the Lamb Skewers with Chickpea purée and Harissa. We’ve gone for a bottle of Rioja “Luis Canas” and when you couple that with the Catalan Bread it’s clear from the offset El Gato Negro have come out of the blocks and set a serious pace. We’re then hit with our White Onion, Chargrilled Artichoke & Manchego Rice. That’s right folks, cheesy rice and take it from me as gluten free dishes go you’d be hard pressed to beat that.
What follows is difficult to put into context, so much so that a lady on the table next to us fell so hardly over her words after the first mouthful she was in danger of hitting the deck, we had been the same 30 mins prior. The Octopus with Capers, Shallots and Aioli is simply glorious. Never have I tasted Octopus done in such a way and it’s doubtful I will again, until next week when I plan to go back.
If that wasn’t enough the rather large Rack of Baby Pork Ribs followed and falling effortlessly from the bone with every mouthful craving more Tim commented that the finger bowl simply wouldn’t do, we were going to need wash our faces after this one, carnivorous fools.
2 more dishes fall before us: first Belly Pork then Monkfish both fantastic with the Monkfish being a firm favourite of mine. To finish us off Braised Ox Cheek that was melt in the mouth good (you can see why we went with the red wine.)
Not to be out done we opted for the sharing dessert platter. If you can manage it, order it. We doubled it up with some cocktails and the theatrical nature of the whole thing combined is simply not to be missed.
What the team at El Gato Negro have achieved is nothing short of brilliant. The food on that menu could live happily at any level of dining and by that I mean simply that there’s nothing superfluous here: no gimmicks, no theatre, no false opulence and no pretence. Simply fantastic food at a reasonable price point served by competent and knowledgable staff on plain white plates, how many places do you know of that can boast that.