“It’s nice to see the same faces every day” says El Gato Negro Tapas chef patron, Simon Shaw.
A seemingly throwaway statement, but pertinent in the restaurant trade. The curse of King Street is something all new openings have in the back of their mind, and something which Shaw doesn’t shy away from.
Despite its runaway success over the last 12 months, Simon admits a hectic start and move from Ripponden to the city centre caused nerves, but an open and honest approach to running the kitchen and front of house has ensured a stable future for the crown of King Street.
An informal, low-key bash on the top floor reminds us of what we love about El Gato Negro. The decor feels authentic, the mood relaxed but attentive and the menu is first class – a true mix of style and substance. It’s managed to pull off the seldom seen balance of being casual enough for cocktail and nibbles, whilst still being a destination for special occasions.
Getting a table at El Gato is not easy, and with the likes of Lunya, La Vina and Iberica firmly established in the city centre, you’ve just got to be persistent and patient if you’re not willing to settle for second best. The glitz of the rooftop bar and open kitchen have secured its status as one of Manchester’s best and most loved restaurants, the kind that has its staff and customer at the core of its operations.
Eyes now turn to Suri, the Middle Eastern restaurant taking over Quill’s space further down King Street. Run by former Allied London property consultant Andrea George, Suri also promises a relaxed and casual dining experience – quite the opposite of its bold and brash predecessor.
Manchester isn’t daft, you see. Fur coat and no knickers doesn’t wash here. Places like The Refuge and The French don’t use their surroundings as a stick to beat customers with. Instead, their accessible approach to fine dining and incredible spaces have earned them a reputation and following, the likes of Quill could only have dreamt of.
Having spent a night enjoying free canopies and booze at El Gato Negro Tapas, I’ve already booked myself back in for next month. For someone who enjoys a lot of free lunches, that’s a sign.