New restaurant Tast Cuina Catalana on King Street has not yet been open three months, but it has already attracted lots of attention from both the public and the press.
“Tast deserves to thrive,” said our critic Ray King about the new venture, which has a menu by Michelin-starred Paco Pérez and backers including Pep Guardiola. “Its culinary excellence is in no doubt.”
Now, Tast has attracted the attention of national food critics, with Giles Coren from The Times, Grace Dent from The Guardian and Michael Deacon from The Telegraph all paying a visit to review it. But what did they think?
First up was Giles Coren, who visited during the restaurant’s soft launch period. He’s not traditionally been favourable towards the city’s restaurants – he even mentioned in this review that he’s “rarely got a decent meal in Manchester” – but could “good-looking joint” Tast win him over?
The first dish to attract the critic’s attention was the Duck’in Donuts, chef Paco’s signature “donuts” of chilled white chocolate filled with foie gras mousse and dusted with a sharp raspberry-flavoured powder.
“I’m not really a one for sweeties, especially at the start of a meal when I crave something salty to set off my first drink, but these were cleverly done and will no doubt impress,” wrote Giles.
The croquetas of jamón, red pepper and roast chicken were “admirably crisp and golden, with that smooth, floury béchamel filling so beloved of croquetas fans.”
The Times critic was less impressed by the number of processes the dishes had been through.
It was “somehow, very old-school Iberian, in the brownness and smoothness of the food,” he wrote. “The endless process. Nothing was piping hot off the grill or plancha, or raw or remotely seasonal or local. Nothing at all, apart from those asparagus tips, was green.
“Typical of this was canelo la Barceloneta, a soft pasta tube of extruded guinea fowl meat, with more béchamel and a brown shiny demi-glace. You’d never have guessed it was guinea fowl. Not in a million. So much having been done to it, as it had been to everything.”
The sweet dishes, however, won him round again.
“For pudding, we had some charred melon with fresh almond ice cream that is normally served as a starter. And it was wonderful. I wouldn’t want it as a starter myself but at the end of a meal, its mild sweetness and relative freshness were very welcome.
“And there was a crema catalana as good as I’ve had anywhere.”
The final score from Giles was 7.76 out of 10 – a 6 for cooking, 8 for space, and 9 for service.
Following in Giles’ footsteps was Grace Dent, reviewing for The Guardian.
“Tast is a high-end, imaginative, occasionally edgy ‘taste of the Catalan kitchen’ by Paco Pérez, a chef of two Michelin-star calibre,” she wrote.
Grace also tried the Duck’in Donut, but seemed rather less impressed than Giles, describing it as “an Instagram bear trap” and tasting “like a satanic Quality Street.”
The red pepper croquetas impressed, described as “fantastic: fluffy, crunchy and with heavenly, sweet innards. They’re a true work of art.”
As the lunch went on, Grace seemed less wowed, describing the dishes as “dainty and somewhat muted.” Once again, though, puddings impressed – they are “where glory lies,” wrote Grace.
“Xuixo de crema is showstopping: a warm, plentiful wodge of fresh puff pastry filled with custard, and lying in a slovenly manner in a puddle of dark chocolate.
“We order crema catalana, too – a rather humble-sounding vanilla custard with a smattering of berries – and end up talking about it for days.”
Grace scored the restaurant 7 out of 10 for both food and atmosphere, and 8 out of 10 for service.
The third critic to venture north was Michael Deacon, for The Telegraph.
Michael also tried the signature Duck’in Donut: “Sounded revolting, but somehow it was terrific. Bizarre. My brain felt like a bewildered dog, chasing its own tail and barking madly.”
Next up, Michael tried the ou d’ànec, xipirons i salsa tàrtar, a dish our reviewer described as “the best all-day (go on then, every day) breakfast you’ve never had.”
The Telegraph critic agreed: “It was spectacular. Salty baby squid, potatoes fried so thin they were practically crisps, and the slowly oozing yolk of a duck egg.”
He was also imprsesed by the arròs de bosc i vaca vella: “a tin tray of rice, big chubby grains of it, plus plump padron peppers and boletus mushrooms, with little squares of beef sirloin lying on top. The beef was tremendous. And the rice was beautifully soft without going all gluey: you could taste every grain.”
And once again, pudding was a winner.
“Pudding was xuixo de crema i xocolata. I didn’t dare try pronouncing it. I just pointed at the words on the menu. ‘Shoo-shoo,’ said the waitress. I assume she was demonstrating how to say ‘xuixo’, rather than telling me to go away.
“Anyway, it was great. The xuixo itself was crisp and sugary, like a doughnut but the shape of a fat cigar, and filled with custardy goo. Glistening beneath it was a slick of thick, dark, practically black chocolate. It looked like tarmac melting on a hot day.”
Michael gave Tast 4 stars out of 5.