Saturday, 16th June is World Tapas Day – the perfect excuse to tuck in to some of the tastiest food around.
The word ‘tapas’ comes from the Spanish verb ‘tapar’ which means ‘to cover’.
According to some, the tradition began when King Alfonso X of Castile was recovering from illness and took to drinking wine and eating small snacks between meals. He thought it such a good combination he instructed all taverns serving wine to pair it with small plates too.
Another theory is that it originated in 19th century Spain when innkeepers would serve food to foreign travellers. To overcome the language barrier, they would offer the travellers samples of food on ‘tapa’ (the word for ‘pot cover’) so they could point to what they wanted.
Or maybe it’s because Spanish bars and taverns used to put a card or a cover of some sort on their glasses to stop flies getting in. Or stop them getting out, perhaps.
Whatever the truth, one thing is certain: there’s some wonderful tapas to be had right here in Manchester. Here’s a selection of our favourite places:
This beautiful two-floor Spanish and Catalan restaurant in the Barton Arcade serves a massive selection of tapas – everything from rustic and authentic favourites such as tortilla and patatas bravas to inventive options like chargrilled octopus and deep-fried goats cheese. You really are spoilt for choice here, with tapas options available hot and cold, with some cooked in the kitchen and others from the in-house deli. There are even tapas banquets so you can tuck onto a glorious array of food. The new summer menu features even more exciting dishes, including a substantial selection of vegetarian and vegan options. There’s something for everyone here.
Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BB
El Gato Negro
Since launching in Manchester in February 2016, El Gato Negro has established itself as one of the city’s most popular modern Spanish restaurants, spread across three floors at the stylish 52 King Street. This year saw the Michelin Guide award the restaurant a 2018 Michelin Bib Gourmand for the second year running. Chef patron and creative director Simon Shaw is determined to bring refined yet relaxed tapas dining to Manchester – and on the menu you can try everything from authentic Spanish cured meats to fusion food of the finest quality – including the fascinating-sounding Ostra Regal oysters, yuzu juice, tobiko wasabi and pickled cucumber. There are plenty of vegetable options, too – and they even manage to make cauliflower exciting, caramelising it with Navarrico chickpeas and fritarda sauce.
52 King St, Manchester M2 4LY
Tapas is even more special when paired with a proper glass of wine. Evuna started out as a fine wine house – and now is known for both its tipple and its tapas. Enjoy wines picked by Spanish experts alongside authentic Spanish small plates, as well as main course options too. They have a special tapas menu which includes classics such as albondigas and calamares and veggie options like croquetas de garbanzos –chickpea croquettes in a mint yogurt sauce. Get there early on a good day and you may be able to bag one of their quaint little outdoor tables too.
277-279 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EW/79 Thomas St, Manchester M4 1LQ
This lively Spanish restaurant and bar on Deansgate cooks tapas fresh to order and offers a warm welcome, with homely wood interiors and wine barrels styled into tables. The charcuteria options are particularly popular, featuring cured meats and chorizo, whilst the vegetarian selection is refreshingly varied, with a new dish being guiso de lentejas verdes – braised Pui lentils, red and white quinoa, asparagus, baby courgette, peas, fine beans and spinach. Although it isn’t strictly tapas, the dessert board – the La Vina Dessert Tabla – deserves a mention, with lots of bite-sized desserts, including churros and strawberries. Plenty of Spanish wines, sherries and cavas to accompany it too.
105-107 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BQ
Bar San Juan
And last, but in no way least, this tiny family-owned establishment on Beech Road, Chorlton can be quite the challenge to get into. They don’t take reservations on busy nights, so people wait for hours outside with beers, spilling onto the street, just for a chance to sample Juan’s tapas. Small plates with flavours that transport you to the heart of Spain, carefully chosen wines and tradition in every bite, Juan’s definitely leaves a lasting impression on diners. Go midweek to avoid disappointment, or be prepared to intake many ‘while you wait’ wines.
56 Beech Rd, Manchester M21 9EG