Expect the unexpected, says head chef Paco Pérez
KNOW Tast, and you’ll know about its Duck’in Donut dish, one of the Catalan restaurant’s ‘tramuntanades’ small dishes, named after the Tramuntana wind that blows off the Pyrenees. With a maddening strength, it has influenced the likes of Surrealist artist Salvador Dali and Sagrada Família Basilica architect Antoni Gaudi – and Tast’s head chef Paco Pérez’s bonkers duck liver, chocolate and raspberry creation, first concocted in 2012 in his famous Miramar restaurant in fishing port Llançà, between the Cap de Creus and the French frontier on the Costa Brava.
We wondered how Paco has enjoyed opening his first UK restaurant here in Manchester. ‘It’s been a really nice and exciting experience,’ he said. ‘I am so happy to be here.’
Tast is the taste of Catalonia, bringing the fiercely independent spirit of the north-eastern region of Spain to your table in Manchester. Catalan gastronomy is a little different to the usual Spanish tapas dining experience – be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and put your tastebuds to the test while trying some traditional dishes with a twist. And it works – chef Paco and his passionate team now have seven restaurants around the world and a total of five Michelin stars to boot.
And they’ve brought with them to their new King Street showcase the Tastet concept – ‘a small taste of food’ is the translation from the original Catalan. More complex in flavour and presentation than tapas though still smaller than a plate, a Tastet can be served alone as an appetiser, or as a small collection for a complete meal (three to five are perfect for two people).
Obviously we were keen to know more, so we popped along to the three-storey restaurant for a chat with chef Paco Pérez. We asked him to compare his Catalan Tastets to the Spanish tapas we’re used to. ‘I think the main difference is the produce and taste of the cooking methods,’ he said, explaining that the Tast Tastets are inspired by the beautiful Catalan landscape: the sea and the mountains, the countryside and the cities – a wonderful landscape of texture and colour that is directly translated into the dishes. ‘Best reflecting Catalan food at Tast, I’d say, is the Coca de Escalivada & Anchovies – it’s very simple but represents us very well.’
This nibble is a crunchy flat bread topped with red pepper, aubergine, onion and tomato, and, of course, the salty fish. Along with various other plates perfect for sharing, this is available in the Pinya (ground-floor bar) and Folre – the heart of Tast on the first floor, complete with the main open kitchen and where you can also enjoy a traditional three-course meal. On the top Enxaneta floor they currently offer the full menu but you will be able to enjoy an exclusive tasting menu that promises to take you on a culinary adventure across Catalonia. Paco says: ‘This is where we want to offer a more gastronomic space. It’s a more current concept of Catalan cuisine.’
With the end of the summer comes a new autumn menu, so we asked Paco what we can expect when it launches in October. ‘We will use lots of mushrooms,’ he said. ‘We want to reflect autumn through aromas and pragmatic cooking methods.’
We’ll look forward to it! Before we left, we wondered how Paco has enjoyed opening his first UK restaurant here in Manchester. ‘It’s been a really nice and exciting experience,’ he said. ‘I am so happy to be here and thanks to Tast I have also learned lots about the English culture and tastes.’
So Paco is ready to welcome you – are you ready for the Tast experience? Come with an open mind and a willingness to try new things – maybe all those mushrooms will help!
Find out more about Tast and the new autumn menu here.