When it comes to Italian restaurants, in Manchester we are spoilt for choice. For the most part, some are better than others, some more authentic, etc etc.
When it comes to Spanish and Tapas-style food, the list is almost as long. What I’m discovering, as I’m sampling from most of them, is that they all offer their own take on dishes. They all bring something to the table (pun intended). Each is a little different, the experience is a little different, the atmosphere, the decor.
La Vina is one that I’ve visited for everything from a quick glass of wine and a nibble, through to a full sit down dinner, much like this visit. The decor is wood heavy, a reminder of childhood summer holidays and visits to restaurants where your parents (or your friend’s parents) practised their accents as much as their phrases.
It is, perhaps a little dated, but given it’s pretty much part of the furniture (I can’t remember it not being there, anyone else?) it’s probably not in a rush to change.
Part of me doesn’t want it to. It’s here, many moons ago, I learned about Rioja – particularly white Rioja, and sherry.
Though one thing has changed – in the last few months there’s been an update to the menu – and so, along with a special or two, we dove in.
We began with a platter of charcuterie. big fat green olives and quince jelly, accompanied chorizo, salami and, um cheese. It’s here my knowledge ends as in perhaps the most frustrating part of the evening, nothing was explained to us. Whilst I can take a guess at jamon, chorizo and salchichon, and one of the cheese being Manchego (maybe the other San Simon?), it still felt like a missing element, and too much like a guessing game.
No matter, it was all delicious and we may have fought a little over the last morsel of cheese. Because, well, cheese.
If you’ve ever eaten with me before, you’ll know an essential part of my tapas selection, is Padron peppers. I think it’s some sort of addiction – really, I don’t mind if nobody else eats them, I’ll happily polish off the plate. Green, bitter, salty, these were perhaps taken a little over for me, but still fresh and tasty.
From the specials menu we couldn’t resist the spinach croquettas, and were awfully glad we ordered them. Rich, creamy, with the crisp outside and a little kick to the sauce sitting beneath them, the specials selection is well worth a nosey.
Then things got a little bit meaty.
Yes, that is bone marrow, and it’s topped with crisp chorizo crumb. And yes, it’s bloody delicious. The gentle spicy and texture of the chorizo cuts through the creamy rich fattiness of the bone marrow. And is definitely on my list to have again on my next visit.
Finally, to carb things up a little, we had some toasted bread, a little oil and vinegar and of course, a small bowl of chorizo in thyme and honey – because why not.
Somehow we found room for dessert. No I’m not sure either, but we did.
And this time, there was no sharing.
My date’s selection was indulgence itself, the Chocolate y Torta de Naranja. A squidgy rich, chocolate orange fudge brownie, with vanilla ice cream. Even as a watching bystander, the smell of the chocolate orange wafted deliciously across the table.
For me, it was a little lighter, with the Crema Catalana Helados. OK, not so much lighter as it’s effectively a rich buttery custard turned into an ice cream, but you know, a little bit. Tiny bit. Some.
The new menu is a great step for La Vina. Whilst consistently ‘good’, I’ve wanted it to have a bit of a nudge higher. It could and should be just a little bit… more.
This meal and accompanying drinks were supplied for free by La Vina. As ever, this doesn’t guarantee a positive review (if anything, I tend to be a harsher critic).
Elements were brilliant, others parts of the meal less so. Perhaps the most frustrating was the board, but for all that, the food was great, and we’d happily go again.