Left: ‘Montado’ dishes; top right Spanish Omlette, bottom right Croquette, and bottom left Chorizo were the best, yet did not surpass the competition. Tapas Bars…
Left: ‘Montado’ dishes; top right Spanish Omlette, bottom right Croquette, and bottom left Chorizo were the best, yet did not surpass the competition.
Tapas Bars are really taking Manchester by storm; those little dishes of delight are the in thing, the cool cuisine. The small snack sized portions allows the diner and their companions to sample a whole host of different meats, vegetables, and sauces all in one sitting—variety being the spice of life really has caused Tapas to take off.
Grammatically speaking Tapas is a noun, yet I feel journalistic license allows me to move the word into the realm verbs: to Tapas. You can Tapas to your hearts content in the Northern Quarter, on or just of Deansgate, in Chorlton, West and East Didsbury, so can the restaurant landscape really cope with another Tapas Bar, are we not at saturation? If there is an overarching, yet un-poetic, analysis of these established bars it would be ‘reasonably priced, pretty damn tasty, good night out’; I think this is what Tapas Bars should be looking to achieve.
So as we marched, heads bowed against the lashing, sideways rain we approached a new Tapas venture, a Gastro-Tapas Bar, Nido, in East Didsbury. The exterior is not classy or alluring; I must confess it looks more like a Rusholme Curry House than a competitor to Casa Tapas, only up the road. Yet a book must not be judge…lest we forget El Rincon, my favourite local Tapas has an exterior of a back street garage offering dodgy MOT services.
Umbrellas down, shoes wiped, we entered to a very warm welcome of hand shakes and rather good Sangria. Very soft and fruity—the Sangria that is! We were shown the bar area which is separated from the dining space by the entrance area that is directly in front of the open view kitchen. Chef’s chopping, sautéing, caramelising everywhere, indeed when fully staffed the kitchen boasts six members, including head chef Pablo, a Spanish born chef who has trained in a myriad of top restaurants on the Iberian Peninsular, before moving the UK to forge his own culinary reputation.
We are shown to a table and then to the buffet style lay out of various tapas to tempt us into a gorging frenzy. Yet the food was unimaginatively presented on plates arranged like the spots on a ‘six domino’, wonky table clothes, and the odd lopsided tapas, fallen from its baguette plinth. My heart had yet to be stolen, but the proof would be in the pudding—and in the savoury dishes.
I first reached for the Spanish Omelette, deep and with potatoes, was seasoned beautifully. I could see this dish being served with a crisp salad and being a rather nice lunch. The Serrano ham had been carved straight from the shoulder and was velvety and salty, and utterly delicious-this was an example of a very good ingredient. Chef Pablo was enthusiastic about his ingredients, like all goods chefs should be, noting his focus at Nido is the “quality of the produce”, name dropping the Barbakan, an award winning bakery and delicatessen in Chorlton. Yet we wanted to get stuck into more of the dishes that hopefully would turn good, local ingredients into great Tapas.
Everything we sampled from the table was ‘Montado’, a flavourful topping riding on a slice of bread. The tuna-vegetable topping could be replicated at home better—the tuna seemed tinned, and the vegetables a little limp. The Croquetas de Jamón received thoroughly positive feedback from my companion, and I too admit I ventured for a second, and third. Chorizo is a beautiful thing, meaty, smoky, spicy heaven. On offer here was a solitary Cadbury chocolate finger thin sausages riding lonely and looking somewhat lost upon his slice of baguette. This was a shame as the Chorizo was tasty enough, if lacking a bit of pimenton oomph.
It would have been good planning to offer something other than the Montado at this event. And indeed Monsur, the very friendly owner obliged. He delivered to our table two plates of Paella, possibly the most iconic Spanish dish, eaten and loved the world over. That rainy Sunday afternoon, a little piece of Spain died. Paella should be served in a bowl, it should be oozing with flavoursome sea food and chorizo, well spiced and asking to be devoured. All these things were absent from our ‘paella’, it came in a tower shape, was bereft of succulent meaty content, and was presented with a fashionable smear of aioli which blew my ears off it was so pungent with raw garlic.
After having been saddened by the Paella, our hopes were lifted by the promise of a dessert, a signature dish, which will draw in repeat custom just on the strength of this one dish. Maybe the pastry end of the kitchen is where the really strong suit lies? Torrija was brought to us, with a selection of a miniature crème brulee and ice cream sat atop crisp biscuit. Torrija is a bit like French toast, it is bread soaked in milk, honey, spices, and egg then pan fried. It was crisp on the outside, soft in the middle, and thoroughly ‘cinnamony’, a good dessert indeed—but worth a visit just for that may be a stretch. The brulee was deep vanilla with a brittle caramel top and the ice cream too was vanilla. This plate was a sample of what the dessert menu can offer, it seemed a little to reliant on the deep, creamy flavours and not enough love was given to something to counter the richness. Though if you do eat here, do save room for a dessert as it is one of the best things on offer.
Now sure ‘gastro’ has been a fashionable word for eateries for a long time, it infers a superiority over those places that have not deemed themselves worthy of this prefix, yet I feel Nido still has a way to go before deserving the prefix. The prices were not cheap enough to pull in hoards of students, but the quality was not high enough to trump their competitors, and nowadays with student food interest, quality is an essential prerequisite for a restaurant hoping to benefit form student trade.
We left a little disappointed with the food as a whole, but there were good points. The service and staff were wonderfully friendly, but handshakes and smiles doesn’t cover up the fact this place has a good few creases to iron out before it can rightfully join the legion of Manchester’s established Tapas Bars.
Above left: Paella was a sorry affair. Above right: dessert was the best course on offer.