• El Gato’s Simon Shaw goes eastern Med for his new city centre venture

El Gato’s Simon Shaw goes eastern Med for his new city centre venture

6 January 2019 by Neil Sowerby

TASTE of Manchester did wonder why El Gato Nego chef/patron Simon Shaw put off a catch up dinner at his freshly-minted second project, Canto in Ancoats, because he was “going to be in Lebanon all week”, then when we did catch up quizzed us about our mutual admiration for grill-driven London Levantine restaurants such as Palomar and Barbary (above) and those pioneers linking North African and Spanish cuisine, Moro in Exmouth Market.

We kept shtum about the natural progression from El Gato Negro in King Street’s Modern British take on tapas to an easter Mediterranean restaurant venture but now, with a planning application logged for the old Panama Hatty’s site on the corner of Brown Street and King Street (below), the secret’s out.

The name and plans for the design of the restaurant are being kept under wrap but will see the basement of the grade II* listed Venetian Gothic style building totally transformed while making use of the building’s original features.  

Simon Shaw told us: “We’re really pleased to announce that we will be opening our long-awaited third restaurant on Brown Street this summer. Drawing heavily on my travels through the Middle East, diners can expect authentic flavours inspired by the various regions. The space itself will be open and inviting, similar to El Gato Negro, making guests really feel at ease. We’re looking forward to revealing more in the coming months.”

That will include a name for the place, still under wraps. Originally this Middle Eastern direction had seemed to be the way to go for the Cutting Room Square site he and his backers acquired but that became the Portuguese-inspired Canto, opening in September 2018 as a showcase for Porto-born chef Carlos Gomes (pictured above with Simon). Here’s our review

Yorkshireman Shaw, once an exec chef at Harvey NIchols, won acclaim for his original, groundbreaking tapas restaurant El Gato Negro at Ripponden, West Yorks. It moved into Manchester city centre in 2016 but that was never going to be the summit of Shaw’s ambitions. He raved to us about the bakeries in Beirut. If his new place can replicate the bagels and naans (above) of Barbary in Covent Garden he won't be able to keep us away!