Lunya is already a successful deli, restaurant and bar in Liverpool, so the decision to open a sister in Manchester has been met with great anticipation. We asked Emily Oldfield to investigate…
Owners Peter and Elaine Kinsella take pride in Lunya’s independent stance and commitment to the finest Catalan and Spanish food. Think tapas transformed. The Manchester restaurant opened on the 27th October bringing authentic Catalan dining and paying homage to the North -Manchester Tart Catalana or Catalan Hotpot, anyone?
certainly is a
The Barton Arcade certainly is a stunning location for Lunya – with windows looking both onto the Grade II-listed Victorian interiors and out into Deansgate. This results in a light, relaxed feel, complemented by wonderfully high ceilings. Lunya is spread over two floors, with a deli and bar on the ground floor.
This means you are welcome to shop or take a drink for as long as you like though perhaps there will be never enough time for me – they boast one of UK’s largest arrays of Spanish beers, gins, wines and spirits!
Luckily, the deli is there to soak it up – an authentically decorated larder of delights, both sweet and savoury. This includes a counter of award-winning produce, with over 40 Spanish cheeses and 3 hams to be carved as you like. It’s incredibly difficult to leave here without buying – like a souvenir from a Mediterranean holiday.
The kitchens and restaurant are located upstairs, bringing a brilliant vantage point which includes the opportunity to dine on the balcony within the Arcade itself. This is a unique experience, and with the colourful red and yellow décor spreading tastefully inside and out, it’s a great place to dine, whatever position you choose. As I was in a party with 3 others, we were seated at a large table near the window, facing Deansgate. The very window, in fact, I have looked onto enviously whilst waiting for the X43 in the rain. After this experience, I know I’ll be even more envious when I look up.
And it certainly wasn’t the window which offered the most to see either – it was the menu! We were eating from the main menu, which applies all day on a Saturday. Lunya offers not just authentic Spanish and Catalan food but a dining experience with combinations of cold and hot, sharing platters, tapas and paella dishes. For most sections on the menu, you are provided with options from the deli as well as those from the kitchen so you can have the opportunity of buying downstairs and taking home what you have eaten upstairs!
Our waitress emphasized that all food was cooked fresh but was very understanding and told us not to worry when we said we had time constraints due to a theatre show later that afternoon. This is what I really liked about Lunya – the accommodating atmosphere. For example, plenty of staff were present, but they weren’t imposing. For a newly-opened restaurant this is a very good sign. The place is clearly focused on promoting its guests’ enjoyment, rather than promoting an image. I even noticed the waitress checking the time for us.
In a matter of minutes we were enjoying mixed olives and Catalan tomato bread to start. We agreed the bread was some of the best we’d tasted, deliciously light, and complemented by the topping of fresh olive oil and tomatoes. The olives also offered up a nice surprise – huge ones of the gordal variety stuffed with orange segments and marinated in chilli! The flavours were fabulous, and I’d really recommend them. However, I made the very British mistake of seeing this section of the meal as the starter and then deciding to go to the bathroom. One of the few drawbacks for me was that the toilets are actually not situated in the restaurant but off a staircase of the Arcade which can be a little inconvenient. By the time I returned to the table, more of the tapas we had ordered had already arrived.
The nature of service is something to be celebrated though – your food is served as it is cooked, with different dishes taking different times, so there is a steady delivery of food to your table. This extends the dining process and also avoids two of the negatives I typically associate with tapas restaurants – dining space overcrowded with dishes and cold food. Staff regularly attended the tables and my lateness was hardly an issue, as everything necessary was piping hot – real proof of freshness. I don’t have room to name all the dishes we tried, but I do know that they formed a perfect combination of comfort food as well as adventurous eating.
Old favourites included patatas bravas and tortilla: the traditional potato and onion omelette which was soft and thick without being stodgy. Then came the more adventurous, including Piquillo pepper hummus in mini pastry cases – in other words, hummus made hot hot hot! The tapas were brought out on a combination of authentic mini-dishes, boards and plates – an inviting appearance which made it more tempting to tuck in. But it was the food which provided a real visual treat, especially the deep fried monte enebro – a goats cheese drizzled with orange blossom honey and decorated with beetroot crisps which has already won two World Cheese Awards! It looked like it was bathing in glory when it arrived and tasted so, too. Although we didn’t order paella, I can imagine that it also offers up a good looking table treat> There are a number of varieties available for two or more people.
If you are more into meat, there is traditional Ibérico jamón with its characteristic deep flavour. These hams are hard to miss with the acorn and olive-enriched meat even hanging above the bar area! For more adventurous options you can feast your eyes on the likes of cumin-infused black puddings, acorn-oiled pork shoulder and even the roasted ribs of giant Ibericó pigs. From the fish selection, fresh anchovies and sardines are popular, but you can always opt for octopus if you’re feeling particularly daring. This place really has it all!
We enjoyed talking over food and were left comfortably full, turning down dessert – though there are a number available including the Spanish delicacy known as fried milk! This restaurant is a little pricier than I would usually go for but it is important to consider that this is not just about eating but the experience. And it’s an experience which is well worthwhile. Tapas, on average, are about £8 per dish – with 2-3 recommended each. It is worth keeping in mind that there are lunch menu deals available during the week and you are more than welcome just to experiment with a few snacks and a drink. I’ll certainly be back.
Lunya, Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester M3 2BB