Something else that’s good, and it will probably be best to get this out of the way early, is Finca. They opened up on Thursday in the downstairs bar area of Artisan with a bit of a fanfare – you see this isn’t just any old pop-up, oh no – they’ve been on telly!
The Finca gang went on the BBC show Million Pound Menu looking for £150k to open up a site in Liverpool and have subsequently secured themselves a site in the heart of Manchester’s Spinningfields, serving up their range of Cubanos, Croquettes, Cuba Libre’s and loads more not beginning with the letter ‘C’.
So what’s it like? Is Cuban food worth the effort of combing your hair, polishing the buckles on your shoes and heading down? Yeah course it is. I already said it was great earlier didn’t I? Come on, keep up.
The menu is small but sweet, with a selection of large (Grande) dishes alongside sides (Pequena) which are all designed to be served up together on a big slab of wood. For 2 people they suggest you choose 2 Grande dishes and 3 Pequena which should cover all the bases in terms of tastes, flavours and getting sufficiently full-up.
Always ones to follow the advice of people in the know we stuck exactly to this formula opting for The Finca Cubano and the Ropa Frita on the Grande menu and the Tostones, the Croquettas and the Finca Fresco on the side.
In the short time that we waited for the food to arrive, we consulted the fantastic cocktail menu, which features a range of fresh, primarily rum-based creations – of which we fell in love with the Cuba Libre. Sure, you might think of it as just a rum and coke but Finca’s version is so much more, with a generous squeeze of lime and some rather impressive Havana Club Especial giving it the necessary kick.
The food came and we quickly realised that we were unprepared for the sheer amount of it we had to contend with. There was plenty enough here for two very greedy and hungry gannets, and we were very impressed with the range of flavours on offer.
Let’s start on the Cubanos because they’re one of the highlights and probably the most famous thing that Finca offers. In its simplest sense it’s a toasted sandwich but in reality, it is so much more. A stunning balance of pulled pork shoulder and ham, stuffed between two slabs of bread.
Not only that though you’ve got lashing of gouda cheese, mustard and the whole thing comes dripping in pickle juice and green mojo. The combination of flavours works fantastically well and the meat is perfectly succulent – benefiting from not being overly salty which of course, pork can sometimes be mightily guilty of.
The Ropa Frita is slow cooked beef brisket in a super soft brioche bun stuffed with shoestring fries, roasted garlic aioli, guava barbeque sauce and some pickled red onion. I was concerned that this may have been a little too sweet with the brioche and the BBQ sauce but my fears were quickly alleviated once I took a big chunk out of it. The aioli is the perfect foil to the tangy BBQ sauce and the shoestring fries add a welcome salty, savoury punch that cuts all the way through.
On the side, we went for the Gouda and Spring Onion Croquettas which were so full of filling that they squirted lovely molten cheese sauce over my hand at every opportunity. The corn maize exterior added a welcome crisp to the very soft inner filling and there’s enough cheese in here to give you a satisfying hit of the good stuff with every mouthful. The bright yellow roast garlic aioli on the side was the perfect accompaniment and looked very much homemade. Class.
The Tostones are twice fried plantain which have been shaped into a disc shape – perfect for scooping the fabulously fresh avocado and mango salsa on top and we also tucked into the Finca Fresco, a kind of Cuban Nachos with Yucca crisps sitting alongside a stunning combination of sweetcorn, black beans, pineapple and lime yoghurt. Both dishes were fresher than fresh, unique and provided more flavour than most places have on their whole menu combined.
Finally, we finished with the rather naughty Bunelos & Mantecado which are Cuban Doughnuts made from sweet potato and yucca. I’d say if you visit Finca and can only get one thing – get this – it was a fucking pleasure to eat. Again, the dish was superbly balanced, with a scoop of ice cream giving the necessary cream to the salted caramel sweet, it wasn’t’ too sweet, not too salty – basically absolutely perfect.
In my humble opinion, Finca is a very welcome and very impressive addition to an already rather impressive line-up over in Spinningfields. The dishes were exceptional, with proper authentic flavours that I don’t think Manchester has really had much of before.
They really seem to have hit the sweet spot between street food, restaurant and bar snacks, providing a relaxed atmosphere where even just popping in for a couple of cocktails and a plate of croquettes, you’re going to get plenty of Cuban flavour.