Review: El Gato Negro set to leave diners purring

THE transformation of a listed building into a bold new restaurant and bar concept was never going to be easy, but after more than a year of planning, significant investment and hard graft, El Gato Negro has finally opened its doors.

Spread across three floors in the middle of King Street – in Manchester’s prime retail zone – El Gato Negro is the brainchild of acclaimed chef Simon Shaw and his backers Mills Hill Developments, with the goal of creating  a chain of high-end tapas restaurants.

The look and feel of the interior is impressive. Once home to retailers Ted Baker and All Saints – the fit out of 52 King Street  was led by Mark Mason Design, a Manchester consultancy.  

On the ground floor – where there is a bar and deli – traditional Spanish iconography is fused with distinctly Mancunian touches – most notably a huge mosaic depicting poet John Cooper Clarke and the late Frank Sidebottom.

So what of the food? Shaw, who earned a host of plaudits and awards for theSimon Shaw El Gato Negro first incarnation of El Gato Negro in Ripponden, Yorkshire, where he ran the restaurant from 2005 to 2014, clearly has a lot to live up to.

The menu we sampled – showcasing some but not all of his dishes – suggest that the restaurant will be a welcome and hugely popular addition to the Manchester dining scene.

Among the stand-out tapas dishes – complemented by some fine and carefully chosen wines – were the Jamon Croquetas – delicious melting cheese and ham delights – and the Confit of Belly Pork – served with rosemary flavour arrancina beans.

The pork dish was truly delicious and will, I am sure be one of the best sellers. The fusion of the soft meat with  the sumptious beans was really top notch and worthy of Shaw’s prestigious Michelin Guide 2015 Bib Gourmand.

The Carabineros Prawns were a highlight too – intriguingly served with a tasty seafood rice – while in homage to his Yorkshire roots, Shaw’s Barnsley Chop was succulent and tangy.

On the negative, the Fillet of Line-Caught Hake was a little under-whelming, but overall there was little to fault.

El Gato NegroFor dessert we were served: Rhubarb Panna Cotta; Vairhonea Chocolate Delice; Creme Catalan, Turron Cheesecake and Mini Doughnuts with hot chocolate sauce.

All were delicious, with the Creme Catalan and the panna cotta really stealing the show.

El Gato Negros competitors in the Spanish tapas scene – the huge Iberica in Spinnigfields and the recently maligned El Rincon del Rafa off St John’s Street (the latter recently earned a zero hygeine rating) should be wary.
There is more to El Gato Negro than meets the eye. On the second floor is The Black Cat cocktail bar – which features a retractable roof – perfect on a dry evening for drinks.

Overall, I was hugely impressed by my first visit to El Gato Negro and am sure it will meet the lofty expectations of the many foodies waiting to visit.