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Manteca in a nutshell
Manteca is a suitably dark and moody restaurant in London’s beating Soho, where fresh, hand-cut pasta and nose-to-tail sauces are the order of the day.
Who’s cooking at Manteca?
Chris Leach is behind the pass – he’s done the London rounds with Kitty Fisher’s, Pitt Cue and Petersham Nurseries on his CV, as well as a cult residency in 2019 at 10 Heddon Street, alongside co-founder David Carter (of Smokestak).
What’s the vibe?
Whatever the time of day, Manteca feels like a dark den of Soho. Geometric ceiling tiles and charcoal breeze block walls are tied together with ferns dangling from macrame; soft lighting bounces off polished concrete floors and grey leather banquettes, while filament bulbs provide a warm glow in front of the peekaboo window to the kitchen.
What’s the food like at Manteca?
Tender orange-scented olives of every colour and size are fine fodder for browsing the short menu, while warm and bouncy, rosemary-flecked focaccia, damp with oil and salt crystals, staves off hunger before the main event. There’s house-made mortadella, which we’ll be returning for, but are tempted in the direction of the fresh pasta. Rich and silky brown crab cacio e pepe clings onto tonnarelli – spaghetti’s squarer, rougher cousin – while fat, slippery ribbons of pappardelle hold the softest, well-seasoned ox cheek ragu and fresh, grassy parsley. The must-order, though, should you be lucky enough to still catch the season, is mushroom ravioli in a buttery sauce with crisp sage and shavings of marbled black truffle – they’re creamy, earthy, forest-floor-fantastic.
And the drinks?
Cocktails stick to the bitter end of the spectrum – there are three Americanos to choose from (the Inglese, made with Asterley Bros Estate English sweet vermouth instead of Campari and garnished with a wedge of pink grapefruit, is deliciously rounded and mellow), low-ABV high-ball amaros and spritzes – alongside a modern wine list, with everything from fizz from Emilia-Romagna to a floral white from the Kent Downs.
Pasta and cocktails are more than enough here, but if you want something more substantial, order retired British dairy shorthorn cow rib eye, with garlicky braised greens on the side. The spiced date cake with salted caramel and ginger gelato is a bit of alright, too.
Words by Laura Rowe