You know how it is. Manchester waits in vain for a Michelin Star for more than 40 years then a man with five to his name pitches up in King Street.
The much anticipated Tast Cuina Catalana by Paco Peréz has unveiled its chic contemporary look and sophisticated, daring and jaw-droppingly complex menu to the press.
Paco – who promises to be in Manchester at least once a month and in contact with Tast on a daily basis – is one of the most renowned chefs in Catalunya with Michelin 2* restaurants in Barcelona and near Girona and the Michelin 1* Restaurant Cinco in Berlin, whose head chef Miquel Villacrosa has taken the helm at Tast.
The press tasting showcased a menu at once light and brilliantly executed while unleashing a range of audacious flavour combinations; in football parlance, playing tiki-taka with some outstanding ingredients.
The football analogy is entirely appropriate. Together with the team that has made such a success of the South American restaurant group Fazenda in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Edinburgh, the driving force behind Tast is the effervescent Sandra Soriano, whose husband Ferran is CEO of Manchester City. He is also, with manager Pep Guardiola and director of football Txiki Begiristain, one of Tast’s investors.
Occupying the space that housed Quill, then Suri, Tast’s 120 covers are spread over three floors. The ground floor, all clean lines, cool blond wood and good, understated design, is the most casual of the three.
The main dining area and buzzing theatre kitchen (the restaurant boasts four kitchens in all) on the floor above is also chic and unfussy with a stylish and contemporary vibe, while private dining space – also earmarked for fine dining with a tasting menu – is accommodated on the second floor.
The decor has been toned down deliberately so that it’s the food that does the talking. And how eloquent it is – poetic rather than prosaic – for the multi-Michelin starred parentage is often very evident.
The opening snacks were little short of sensational. Soft creamy cheese was combined with the sublime earthy flavours of truffle confit and sandwiched between two light-as-air crisp foam crackers.
And how about this? Luxurious foie gras encased in delicate white chocolate circles, dusted with powdered raspberry and served as “Dukin’ Donuts”. Clever? Absolutely. Too clever? We’ll see.
Giant slices of fabulous sourdough bread impregnated with tomato and olive oil (meant, in Catalan style, to be eaten throughout the meal) arrived before more familiar Iberian fare, deftly fashioned croquettes, the first with a filling flavoured with red peppers, the second with roast chicken.
A compilation of runny yolk duck egg, baby calamari, potato and tartar sauce – the best all-day (go on then, every day) breakfast you’ve never had – yet – was a real treat, while crispy skinned chicken wings really took off with their pairing with hearty and piquant picada foam sauce, the classic Catalan “pesto”.
We were soon back to the nigh-on outrageous: spinach, pine nuts and raisins, the punch line being that in the middle of the warm spinach sat a quenelle of pine nut ice cream. The advised technique was to scoop from the middle to the outside. Bet you’ve never done that in La Tasca.
Octopus, cooked sous vide for tenderness, came with potatoes, traditional tangy Catalan romescu sauce. Counterpointing, sweet oloroso on a show-stopping sculpted platter, while potatoes stuffed with beef cheek and paired with carrot mayo were braver than bravas on the taste buds.
Into the home straight. Stuffed baby squid was combined with egg and tomato; rice with squid, red prawn and codium (seafood) mayo – it would be churlish to call it Catalan paella, but you get the drift – was served in a metal roasting tray with the instruction to squeeze the head of the prawn over the rice and just-so chicken drumsticks were partnered by tiger prawns and saffron mayo in a heady dance of flavours.
Dessert combined fresh pineapple and mango with a hint of sage, drizzled with toffee and served in a pineapple ring.
From an overwhelmingly Catalan wine menu we were poured vibrant, sexy Anna de Cordorniu Blanc de Blancs, a brilliant version of cava, Catalunya’s own fizz, but with 70 per cent chardonnay dominating the traditional blend.
We also had a deliciously floral and grapey dry muscat-based while and a robust, Beaujolais-style red made from the indigenous sumoll grape.
Tast deserves to thrive. Its culinary excellence is no doubt. I hope that the audacity of these dishes win over the Mancunian palate.
But you’ll have to wait until 20 July until the finishing touches are complete.