Openings

Eat this: Tast Cuina Catalana

It's a cuisine that isn't common in the UK, but food from Catalonia has landed in Manchester.

3 August 2018
chefsFrenchmeatrestaurantsseafoodspanishvegetables
  • The Gist: Catalan dishes, both traditional and with innovative modern twists
  • The Chef: Paco Pérez
  • Location: 20-22 King Street, Manchester, M2 6AG
  • Food in 5 words: Seafood, meat and small bites
  • See more: www.tastcatala.com

How did we get here?

Executive chef Paco Perez has quite the stable of restaurants – six in total in Barcelona – including two-Michelin-starred Enoteca at the Arts Hotel in Barcelona. He has Mirama in Llançà, Girona, in Spain (also with two Michelin stars) and is behind the one-Michelin-starred Restaurant Cinco at the Hotel Das Stue in Berlin.

His latest venture is Tast Cuina Catalana in Manchester, which showcases Catalan cuisine.

Catalonia hit the headlines last year in its fight for independence from Spain, but the geographically diverse region is also known for its food. The Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees combine for unique produce, and Catalonia’s distinctive cuisine benefits from French and Spanish influences.

Catalan food is said to be one of the oldest gastronomies in the world too. There are 15th-century books that detail cinnamon in roast dishes, showing the influence of spices coming in on trade routes from faraway places.

But while Perez has a handful of Michelin stars, his vision for Tast is a more informal dining experience.

“There is only one message with Tast, and it is to go back to our Catalan roots and our strong family ties and memories. Nowadays, we have forgotten a little bit what it was like when we were kids, when you were going into your house, your mum was cooking and you could smell the sauce being cooked,” he says.

“With Tast we wanted to recreate that. To go back to our roots, to do traditional cooking with an open kitchen, where you can see and smell the cooking and you can feel at home.”

What’s different about it?

Well, Catalan food isn’t common in the UK, and the restaurant will draw on produce from the region as well as featuring British ingredients.

“We are bringing produce from Catalunya [as Catalonia is called in Catalan dialect], of course, where we don’t want to lose the essence of the Catalunyan dish, like the shrimps. But we are working with local producers and suppliers too,” he explains. “Working with Catalan dishes, we can extend the seasonality of the menu, so we can take the best produce from England when it is the best, and the best produce from Catalunya when it is the best.”

Perez hails from Empordà, the northern part of Catalonia, and several dishes on the menu hail from that area: pollastre amb gambes (chicken with prawns), calamars farcits (stuffed calamari) and espinacs a la catalana (spinach Catalan style with pine nuts and raisins) – though the menu is made up of dishes from all over the region.

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Fricandó is a traditional beef stew that incorporates an ingredient that is almost a symbol of national pride in Catalonia: mushrooms – produce that also has new-found popularity this year.

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