In recent years there's been an explosion of quality Spanish restaurants opening in London; Brindisa, Barrafina, Moro, and Ibérica etc. So to say the arrival of Ibérica to Manchester has been highly anticipated would be an understatement. It's been a long time coming.
At first we're not too keen on the glitzy ground floor bar area. It's only 4.30 and already it's rammed with suits. The site of the camera has heads swivelling round my way. We move upstairs which we much prefer, especially the more private booths down one side. It's like a completely different restaurant up there.
We kick off with Fried Chorizo Lollipops with pear alioli sauce (£5). What's not to love about these? They're gone in one juicy, deep fried mouthful.
The twice cooked Lamb, marinated cherry tomatoes & red peppers from El Bierzo (£9) is superb too. The flaky, rich meat is just right. When they mistakenly bring another one later, I eat that too and say nowt.
Hawksmoor are higher than perhaps Manchester is used to but as I said before, it's worth paying a little extra for quality and their set lunches are pretty reasonable. We also enjoy their twist on Fish & Chips (£5); deliciously moist hake with little potato cubes. We ask for some alioli as an accompaniment and think this should always come with this dish as it works so well.
Service on both occasions was stellar, they have a lot of staff milling about and are well rehearsed although there will always be a few gaps in their knowledge as they're all new to the job. I even spot executive Michelin star chef Nacho Manzano on one occasion. I'm hoping they add a few dishes contributed by Albert Adrià from Tickets in Barcelona up here as they have in London.
They have however, thankfully not watered down their restaurant and product for Manchester. I'd like to see some more unusual dishes (like kokotxas de bacalao and perhaps some Carabinero prawns which can be sourced from our local fishmongers Out of the Blue.) But I'm sure they know what sells more than me.
More photos here.
*Invited to the soft opening on one occasion, paid in full on the second.