Tapas joints in the UK have had a bad rap over the years. While there have always been excellent examples here in the North, diners are more discerning now than ever. Not content with cheap and cheerful chains offering generic dishes, it’s all about authentic regional specialties and playful interpretations these days. Whether it’s Catalan, Basque, Portuguese or upmarket Manc-Spanish fusion that’s your jam, it’s all covered in five of our favourites.
27 Book Now Manchester Spanish
Upmarket Manc-Spanish fusion, that really, really works. Originally from Yorkshire, chef Simon Shaw has created an indulgent, three-storey church to his passion for the best in Spanish food and wine with El Gato Negro. Top floor is a bar and dining, complete with retractable roof, fine wines, bespoke g&ts and cocktails, while wedged in the middle of the upmarket tapas bar on the ground floor is the restaurant proper, complete with open kitchen, exposed brick walls, comfy booths. Be warned however: there’s seldom a spare seat anywhere in the building. Both sexy and moreish, this Spanish restaurant is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Book Now Lancashire Spanish
A true tapas bar serving authentic Spanish dishes, wines and sherries. Owned and run by Basque food importers Joe and Fiona Botham, Levanter is ‘a true tapas bar’ serving authentic Spanish dishes, wines and sherries. Sourcing special meats (both cured and aged) and cheeses from small, rural artisan producers, and bread from local operation, Trove, means that everything is as authentic as your likely to find in Ramsbottom.
Book Now Manchester European
Portuguese-inspired small plates and a menu that really delivers. Porta might be another tapas place – but this one is a smash hit serving excellent food and fine wines. Typical dishes include deep fried goats cheese, dripping in local honey with slivers of fresh orange and the most unctuous, sticky ox cheek, perfectly paired with pickled walnuts and lightly toasted cumin seeds.
25 Book Now Lancashire Spanish
Sublime homage to the pintxos bars of the Basque region. Basque enclave, Baratxuri, is the second Ramsbottom-based bar and restaurant from Joe and Fiona Botham. A spin-off from their business importing high-quality Spanish raw materials, including aged beef from Galician dairy cows, Baratxuri follows the success of their first venture, Levanter, which is just around the corner (and also in the top 100).
Book Now Liverpool Spanish
World-class Catalan deli and restaurant. This central wine and tapas bar is a wonderful place to hang out, with snacks and full-bodied meals on offer. Just don’t expect Spanish standards in a venue known for signature dishes like Catalan Scouse (morcilla and chorizo stew), or croquetas with oxtail and horseradish mousse.