Portuguese restaurant Canto in Ancoats has recently launched a new spring menu focusing on flavours from across Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula.

Hoping for a taste of genuine sunshine in the changeable Manchester weather, we went to try it out.

Making a big impact in small plate form is the expanded petiscos selection, which you can either eat as a starter or have a few of as an accompaniment to drinks.

A new addition is toasted Catalan bread with olive oil, garlic and fresh tomato, generously seasoned and tasting of holidays.

Deep-fried croquetas are crisp and golden, filled with salty jamon and gooey bechamel. There are also mushroom croquetas with black garlic mayo as a veggie option, or crispy fried baby squid with aioli for fish lovers.

Not new, but worth a trip in their own right, are the grilled chicken wings with spicy chilli oil.

The wings have been de-boned, so each mouthful is full of burnished crisp salty skin and buttery soft flesh, with no fiddly bones. If there’s a more perfect snack to go with a cold beer, I’d love to hear about it.

When it comes to mains, there are several new options.

Portuguese classic chargrilled peri peri chicken is an instant winner, the juicy pieces of chicken served with crisp matchstick potatoes and a medium hot chilli sauce. 

Grilled chorizo comes with roasted potatoes and piquillo pepper purée, and braised pig’s cheeks with Ibérico ham mashed potatoes and kale.

Providing a nod to Canto head chef Carlos Gomes’ former experience at Japanese restaurant Koya, and serving a taste of some of the Japanese dishes influenced by Portuguese cuisine, the newly added lamb skewers with teriyaki sauce and wild mushrooms are deliciously rich whilst light.

They work brilliantly with miso glazed carrots, a new side dish.  

Leading the list of new fish dishes, and one of Carlos’s own family favourites, is shellfish rice with prawns, mussels and cod.

Other new fish dishes include cod pil pil with caramelised peppers and red onion, sitting alongside Canto signature dish, Octopus lagareiro with new potatoes, garlic and baby onions.

Effortlessly complementing the meat and fish dishes are seven vegetable dishes including polenta, spinach, poached egg and manchego cheese; Canto tortilla served with aioli; and caramelised cauliflower and chickpeas with fritarda (pepper and tomato) sauce.

“Unlike some cuisines, which have very prominent identities, Portuguese food has many influences,” says head chef Carlos Gomes.

“Two of the oldest countries in Europe, the cultural diversity found in Portugal and across the Iberian Peninsula makes for a really exciting dining experience, borrowing flavours, ingredients and styles of cooking from many regions.

“The spring menu provides a further taste of this vibrant culinary scene with simple dishes that are full of flavour.”

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