Like a new book, El Gato Negro, so recently opened, has retained that crisp, fresh smell that wakens your senses with expectation. Nestled amongst the highbrow boutiques of King Street, the restaurant’s three floors exude a come-hither candlelit glow. Passers-by peer in with the curiosity of a cat, enviously pulling their coats tighter in response to the lingering winter chill.
Our waitress was warm and inviting, said warmth rivaling that created by the dim lighting and the murmured ebbs and flow of chatter. Exposed brick and red leather upholstery was reminiscent of those vibrant scenes found in the Catalonia and the Basque country.
Our waitress’s knowledge of dishes and drinks was vast, and as such, her recommendations made for exceptional partnerships between fine wines and (even) finer foods.
Unlike so many restaurants, El Gato Negro does not conceal its chefs behind closed doors but rather gives them their own ‘table’ within the dining area. We were sitting right in the thick of it, facing the very men who were to feed us.
There is no distinguishing between front or back of house staff here, instead they merge into one entity in spectacular fashion. From the moment the finishing touches were applied to each of our plates, they were handed to us, not by our waitress, but the very hands that had so carefully created them.
The contents of these plates, however, is where El Gato Negro really excels. Bursts of flavour, these mini masterpieces are a delight to devour. Whether big or small, each dish is carefully designed so that each element complements one another beautifully. The star of the show is most definitely their squid with black ink rice, lemon and parsley salad.
Never have I ever experienced such an exquisitely holistic sensation from a morsel of food. Chargrilled over smouldering charcoal and presented on a bed of ebony rice, I resented that I had to share. Their Morcilla scotch eggs with mushroom duxelle, apple purée, and aioli are also not to be missed. A constant sell-out, these aren’t your typical Northern snacks but a beautiful marriage between British and Spanish culture. Similar delights of this marriage are strewn throughout the menu.
With such fantastic predecessors, dessert is not to be forgotten. To really sample El Gato Negro’s sweet tooth, their selection of desserts is a must. An ode to Britain, their Poached Yorkshire rhubarb with vanilla cream and crumble topping artfully treads the line between sweet and sour.
What really sets El Gato Negro above the rest, however, is their skilled understanding of colourful, fresh ingredients, which when fused with perfect seasoning, successfully seduce your taste buds into blissful submission. Moreover, credit should be given to the practically seamless service from chefs and waiters alike.
Although prices here might slightly exceed the general student budget, the restaurant is the perfect choice for any special occasion, or simply as an excuse to treat yourself to a release from the monotony of average student dining.