THERE was a time not so long ago when Spanish restaurants seemed to be taking over the city centre and there was talk of Deansgate becoming the ‘new Las Ramblas’. That’s all settled down now. In 2018 El Gato Negro's new high profile neighbour on King Street, Tast Catala, was keener to flaunt its Catalan credentials and El Gato’s own fresh project, Canto in Ancoats, border-hopped into Portuguese cuisine.
Still one constant – quality jamon links all Iberian incomers and that’s a big selling point for La Boca, a new Spanish-inspired venture making a low-key arrival in the Northern Quarter.
To show us their ibérico de bellota co-owner Donna Robinson took us into the basement prep kitchen of their narrow premises tucked in next door to the Buddhist Centre in Turner Street. Here her partner James Ferdinales has been perfecting hand carving it into wafer-thin slices the traditional way.
Sourced from the Spanish province of Huelva with its free range pigs fed on acorns, the sweetly-fatted ham tastes sublime, paired with some unaged Manchego cheese and grassy olive oil.
Donna thinks the boquerones on the menu (£4 a small plate) aren’t quite up to scratch, but we found the perfect with a plum sour collab between Pomona Island and Rivington breweries, one of three local craft beers on tap alongside the classic Spanish Alhambra and some exclusive Spanish wines.
She and James know their beer well as the couple behind the Monton craft beer bar, Malt Dog. This new ‘charcutteria’ venture has been inspired by a long-time love of Spain and regular stays with James’ father, who lives in Nerja on the Costa del Sol.
Andalucia will be a big influence on La Boca, as it gets into its stride, serving a range of hot bar snacks alongside the likes of chorizo, lomo and serrano ham, which will be available to take away in vacuum packs. The jamon will then be hand-carved upstairs for the pure theatre of it, the morning coffee fix will come from Ancoats Coffee Co and the house gin pour from Three Rivers Gin alongside a Spanish selection, maintaining that ‘local to Manchester and Spain’ theme.
For the moment, though, it’s early days at La Boca (it means mouth in Spanish) but at a time when rent hikes and new developments are squeezing indie retailers out of the Northern Quarter it’s great to see such a characterful bar springing to life. Check out the authentic Mexican place El Taquero in Back Turner Street, too.
La Boca, 14 Turner Street, Manchester, M4 1DZ.