Spanish food is definitely firmly in focus in Manchester this year with a number of new ventures opening their doors. That’s not to say we’ve been without our fair share of tapas bars throughout the city, but modern Spanish food has definitely been underrepresented.
Iberica in Spinningfields is at the forefront of changing all that, and they organised a little Spanish invasion all of their own by bringing executive head chef, and holder of 3 Michelin stars in his native Asturia, Nacho Manzano over for one night only to showcase some of the recipes that have helped put his restaurants in the fabled guide. The chance to eat Michelin starred food in Manchester was too good to miss, and I was lucky enough to be invited down to check it out.
It’s fair to say the atmosphere inside in Iberica was buzzing with excitement throughout an evening filled with 7 courses of fantastic food and a wonderful selection of matched wines, sherries and cava. To begin we were treated to a selection of crispy cod skin with mojo rojo, which was a sort of cod scratching. Seaweed rice cake topped with queen scallop tartare was a really tasty morsel and corn soufflé with smoked sardine came filled with oozing egg yolk, the first of a number of playful surprises.
Sea urchin with frozen tomato sponge, seaweed & parsley emulsion followed in that theme with an interesting mix of taste, textures and temperatures. Wild red king prawn and lemongrass croquette with Asturian chicken broth and pickled cucumber marked the return to some more familiar flavours, although the juxtapose of lemongrass in a croquette was another interesting fusion.
Asturian bean stew with pancetta was seemingly simple but perhaps my favourite of all the dishes, bringing together tender pork and delicious bean broth served on delicately sliced vegetables. Following that, hake cooked with lettuce water and hollandaise was truly melt in the mouth and really showcased the quality of a fish so much revered in Spanish cooking.
The real show stopper of the night in a visual sense, (it didn’t taste half bad either!) was Asturian veal salad with roast marrow and mushrooms. This arrived with a roasted bone cut lengthways exposing the marrow alongside an attractive salad of pink veal and pea shoots, it was magnificent. ‘My mother’s Asturian chicken’ with chicken offal ravioli was the final savoury plate and gave an insight into Manzano’s culinary upbringing by including his mum’s own recipe, you can see talent in the kitchen clearly runs in the family.
Chocolate salad with apple cider vinegar brought the evening to an end with a bang, a stunning combination of edible flowers, chocolate mousse and plenty more besides. I have to say I felt a bit like a kid getting off a roller coaster wanting to get straight back on and go again. Thankfully I plan to do just that, and will be returning to Iberica to sample the a la carte menu as soon as they’ll have me!