Calcotada Festival at Lunya, Manchester

From January to April, Barcelona gets a little giddy about onions. Not just your bog standard brown onions from the supermarket, these are calcots – a cross between a spring onion and a baby leek, and for Calcotada, these are roasted in their outer leaves and served fresh from the grill, dunked in lashings of romesco sauce and washed down with plenty of Cava – all of which is then followed by stacks of meat and sausages and soft red wine. 

It’s a true spring time feast and, though it’s messy and almost literally requires a bib, it’s the kind of eating-with-your-fingers-getting-sauce-on-your-chin that I love. 

And yet it’s something that until Lunya paid homage to it, hosting this feast at their Manchester site, I’d never heard of. 

Even having done a little research beforehand (watching a quick video, thank you internet), and having enjoyed their recent gin tasting (go, it’s great fun) I had an idea of what to expect, but despite this, I don’t think I expected quite the volume of food that we enjoyed.  

Perhaps I simply hadn’t taken on board the word feast, but on arrival, we were greeted with nibbles from the deli, Lunya taking the opportunity to showcase the delights that they have for you to buy and take home. I’ll admit to already being a fan of their cheeses (slice of cheese or two, crackers and a glass of wine while I watch the world go by from their window is a guilty pleasure of mine) but as we worked our way through the cheeses, cured meats and fish (smoked sardines are the future), we perhaps enjoyed a few morsels more than we should have. For the calcots were plentiful.

We donned bibs (as is tradition) for not only is there calcot eating, there is cava sipping. From a porron. Yes, things were about to get messy. 

The whole idea is indulge. To pour as much as you can into your mouth, from as further a distance as possible, and then swallow. Even if you can manage to hit your mouth (there were a few drops in eyes, and probably noses too), as it’s fizzy things get messy, fast. 

It’s at this point you’re a) glad you wore black polyester as it dries quickly, and b) that your glasses offer suitable eye protection, in addition to assisting you in seeing clearly. 

Then we have the calcots themselves. 

Arriving wrapped in newspaper, and their outer leaves, the idea is that you grasp the inner, softer leaves, in one hand, and the root wrapped in newspaper in the other, and pull. The inner is released, soft, and buttery like a roast leek, and then you dunk it in the sweet pepper of the romesco sauce, before trying to fit the whole thing in your mouth at once, while the sauce oozes down your chin. 

Then, if you’ve not dived off for more deli samples, we needed to find room for the meat course. 

Boneless chicken thighs, lamb cutlets, peppery sausages, and smothered patatas bravas sat on the food laden plate, and were enjoyed alongside a glass or two of Rioja. 

It really is a feast – for then comes dessert.

Crem catalana – orange, vanilla, cinnamon custard, topped with a little brulee. 

This isn’t my first visit to Lunya – whether it’s just for a nibble, a full meal, or one of their events. And you can bet it won’t be the last. Now do I go to the Cheese tasting? Or the Sherry tasting? 

Or both?

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With huge thanks to Lunya for the invitation, I was a fan before you opened here, and now even more so. I’ll see you again soon no doubt! 

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