Does a regular diner reach the same conclusion about a restaurant as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* Emma Sturgess and olive reader Matt Robinson compare notes on this new Catalan restaurant
Looking for places to eat in Manchester? Read our review of Tast restaurant in Manchester.
About TAST, Manchester
Tast opened in July on Manchester’s King Street, declaring itself to be the ‘taste of Catalonia’. With space for 120 covers across three dining areas (the private Enxaneta on the second floor, main dining room Folre, and Pinya bar), the décor is slick but understated, with plenty of natural light. Executive chef Paco Pérez, who holds five Michelin stars across seven restaurants around the world, is behind the menu, which starts with three types of bread and tomato, cheese and charcuterie (learn how to make charcuterie with our easy guide), and canapé-like tramuntanades, including toasted cheese and truffle sandwiches (discover our best cheese toastie recipes here).
‘Tastets’ are similar in size to tapas, and beg to be matched with the all-Spanish wine list, Catalan gins and out-there cocktails (try vodka with apple, black garlic and basil oil). Order a couple of tastets each – whether Iberian ham or roasted chicken croquettes, or plates from the ‘garden’, ‘sea’ or ‘mountain’ – then move on to shared rice platters, or the likes of Iberian pork presa and bone-in sirloin steak cooked in a charcoal oven. Can’t decide? Let Paco choose, with a £40 menu of his favourites.
Emma Sturgess is a journalist and restaurant critic based near Manchester who writes for The Good Food Guide and SquareMeal. She loves anything with butter in it. Follow Emma on Twitter at @emmasturgess.
Catalonia and Manchester have long shared a spirit of independence; now Tast has arrived, they’ve got tomato bread in common, too. High expectations accompanied Tast’s recent launch in a King Street spot where previous restaurants have failed. High-end cheffery (overseen by the much-garlanded Paco Pérez) and backing from Manchester City FC manager Pep Guardiola is all highly promising, but it puts Tast under an obligation to hurry up and make an impression. That might be why the service was so hurriedly frenetic. Staff don’t lack knowledge, especially when it comes to regional sausages and wines, but we were hard pressed to relax amid what felt like constant visits. *I wasn’t recognised.
No modern Spanish chef would eschew the opportunity to fool the eye and flirt with the senses. East’s most distinctive dish is a tiny foie gras ‘duck’in donut’ coated in white chocolate and dusted with raspberry powder. It was silky but farmyardy, cold but sweet – once is probably enough. By contrast, I could eat the classy, oozing Iberian ham croquetas, foot-long tomato bread with olive oil poured at the table, or king crab topped with a foamy take on gazpacho all day. Rice dishes, cooked in shallow metal trays for two to share, sound seductive, but we regretted skimping on a rather polite vegetarian option (the seafood version, which looked fabulous at the table next door, is just short of £30), which came topped with florets of plainly cooked cauliflower and broccoli. To finish, crema catalana had a rich, true dairy flavour, but was grainy and almost impossibly deep-filled. A pineapple shell stuffed with perky pineapple, mango and toffee was much better.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A stunner on paper, in real life Tast needs considerably more pep. But while some dishes didn’t deliver, there’s plenty left to try and a beautiful ground-floor bar to enjoy it in. I’ll give it a month to settle and go again; first stop next time, the Catalan cheeseboard and octopus with romescu.
Total bill for two, excluding service: £90.90
Our punter’s TAST, Manchester restaurant review…
A cheery “hola” and big smiles when we arrived set the tone for our evening. You would never know you’re in Manchester, as the place has such an authentic Spanish feel to it. All of the staff were attentive and our waitress guided us through the menu, talking knowledgeably about each dish.
The menu is intended to be a journey through Catalan cuisine and it certainly lived up to expectations. Several of Paco Pérez’s favourite dishes from his famous Miramar restaurant were on offer, and are well worth a try.
Patates d’olot, from the tramuntanades section of the menu, arrived as a mouthful of braised, tender beef cheek with sweet carrot mayo in a crisp potato shell, which oozed flavour once we cracked the exterior. The ‘duck’in donut’ was another surprise – this time, smooth duck liver parfait in a doughnut-shaped casing of white chocolate, with tangy dried raspberry shavings on top. Peculiar on first bite but by the second I enjoyed it. A selection of larger tastets followed. We ordered two seafood dishes – finely shredded king crab, with tomato sauce and basil, and tender monkfish and prawns with saffron mayo. Both came cold, and were incredibly refreshing and bursting with zesty flavours.
This is traditional food with a twist. A wagyu brisket fricandó (a rich Catalan stew) came in a bao bun, with charred asparagus, bauma cheese, sweet cherry tomatoes and peppery rocket. We also tried creamy Iberian ham croquetas, and later lemon sole, the catch of the day, for our mains. Cooked in a charcoal oven, it was tender and fresh. A smooth and citrussy crema catalana rounded off the meal perfectly.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you’re looking for fine-dining food in a relaxed setting, Tast is a winner. None of the dishes on the menu are particularly expensive, but through sheer volume it’s possible to rack up a big bill.