Food: Tast Cuina Catalana Restaurant, Manchester Review

King Street has a new, exciting addition – especially those looking for Catalan flavours in Manchester. Tast has arrived to bring bold Catalan flavours – and a team of owners that includes Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Michelin starred chef Paco Perez.

Last week, I dined from the set menu for a press lunch, checking out the new restaurant and trying out some of the key dishes. Before I start, I can safely say this was a unique dining experience – with some more unusual takes on traditional tapas style foods. But trust me when I say ‘unusual’, I mean wonderfully unusual.

First, lets take a look at the fresh, modern interior. The restaurant’s different levels have been designed to reflect the way Catalan food is served up – starting from casual and quick on the ground, with lots of creams and woods, with a light, airy, minimal feel.

Then, a stripped back but carefully thought out and classic themed dining room on the middle floor, and up on the top floor, a more higher end experience offering private rooms for events and occasions.

In case you are wondering what was occupying the space before, it was once Quill, then Suri. I have to say that the main dining area which we dined on was the most welcoming for me, with its buzzing open theatre style kitchen, and chic and un-fussy styling.

However, there was something about these deep turquoise/navy blue shade of walls on the top floor that totally drew me in…

We dined on the the middle floor, which you can see below…

I was loving the bright, open windows that look out on to the traditional, older buildings of King Street that have stood the test of time, watching the strip slowly turn from a street of premium retailers to up-and-coming fine dining establishments.

And lets not forget to mention the toilets – by far one of the coolest and chic decorated toilets I’ve visited for a long while.

So lets take a look at the set menu we dined from, one which encourages the sharing of food, and celebration of tapas style bowls to dip into in and enjoy.

It might seem a little strange to see ‘Duck’in Donuts ‘at the top of the list, but remember I did say wonderfully unusual at the beginning of this piece. The opening snacks were all sensational to say the least. The donuts combined duck liver, chocolate and raspberry, blending sweet and savoury into a creamy texture, which was strangely delightful.

And then the array of croquettes – x2 sets of traditonal Catalan croquettes with peppers, ham and cheese. Each one deliciously cooked, with creamy, meat and vegetables packed into a soft texture, encrusted with golden breadcrumbs.

An effortless starter…

Now the next dish, the Sandwich de Formatge Trufat, was a unique take on a mini sandwich. Soft creamy cheese was combined with the earthy flavours of truffle confit and placed perfectly between two light-as-air crisp foam crackers.

This may not look it at first glance, but was a melt-in-the-mouth dish.

Now I don’t have the name of these alternative version of loaded fries (in my opinion, as a first glance these plates looked like they were holding chunky fries coated in sauces and toppings), but they were absolutely delicious. A range of vegetables fried and layered with sweet and sour tasting sauces made a tasty and unusual side order, and one that got the nod from most of the table.

Now here was one of my favourites – these little pastel pink bowls held what I can only call a joyous plate of chunky, yummy crab meat.

The Tomaquet Bou de Mar was a real treat for me, where huge, generous chunks of crab meat are hidden in a tomato and basil gel mousse, creating a thicker, creamy texture. A strange one at first to tuck into and share, but as soon as I tasted the combination of tomato, basil and crab in a gel style sauce, I couldn’t stop tucking in…

You can also see the Esparrecs Verde, with Bauma, Cherry Tomatoes and  Rucula, which was served up alongside the crab dish.  Here, we tried the Green asparagus shoots in a rocket and tomato mix, sat on a rich sauce of goats cheese. Although the goats cheese surprised me by not tasting as strong as it usually does, making it a pleasurable sauce to scoop up the asparagus in.

A lovely vegetable and cheese combination, without being too over powerful.

Now one of my other favourites was the one above, which when I first read it on the menu, I thought this would be my least favourite. What a surprise I was in for.

The Pop La Boqueria is an octopus dish served up in traditional, stunning bowls, much more filling than what meets the eye. Octopus is muddled in with potatoes and a romesco sauce, and is a strangely ‘fuller’ dish than I first thought, with chunky, chewier pieces of octopus in a flavoursome sauce and tasty potatoes.

I can’t quite put my finger on what made this dish so special, but it was truly wonderful and a firm favourite of mine.

Now the trays of rice were also a dish that may have looked simple and classic, but actually had a real ‘wow’ factor.

The Arros de Verdures trays are a traditional Catalan rice dish that took on a real vegetable take with cauliflower and broccoli pieces muddled into the sticky and crunchy grains. Think of paella, but with a crisp crunch. They say it’s meant to resemble the scrapings of paella dishes – authentic and with Catalan tastes.

I wasn’t expecting the texture to be as crispy and crunch, yet with soft fork fulls too, and crumbing veggies. It looks so simple, but my word it was a delight.

Now lets end on the dessert. The Xuxio de Crema Xocolata is actually a classic Catalan dessert, which they create with puff pastry, custard and a dark chocolate sauce. It was truly yummy, making it a sweet but not too sickly sweet dish to close the sharing meal.

The puff pastry was soft yet with a crisp touch to it, and the sauce was rich, creamy and sweet. Couldn’t fault the dessert – a fantastic dish to end the meal.

I’d recommend Tast, from what I experienced last week. It’s stylish yet traditional Catalan interior was refreshing and welcoming, and the set menu blew me away, and more importantly, surprised me. Big style.

Worth a visit, for sure…

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