JUST when you thought Ramsbottom was resting on its laurels as a food and drink destination along comes the legendary ‘Pereruela’ to cement the mill town’s status as a neo-Basque enclave.
Yes, Joe Botham, whose Levanter won Best Neighbourhood Restaurant in last year’s Manchester Food and Drink Awards, is expanding his empire further by extending its ‘baby brother’ along the terrace – Baratxuri (pronounced Barachurry), which was also shortlisted and has become so popular it’s often bursting at the seams (below).
To remedy that he has taken over the Lisa Jane Cakes shop next door and has specially commissioned his own custom-made Pereruela, an oven created from refractory clay unique to the village of that name in Castille y Leon. The factory has been in existence since the 15th century. Especially suited to roasting whole animals or fish, you’ll find them in artisan establishments across northern Spain.
The Baratxuri version is expected to arrive in Rammy mid-June, when the acclaimed pinxtos bar will close for a week for the dividing wall to be knocked through and the oven installed. In the meantime, the new dining space is being transformed to accommodate seven large tables.
“In Spain they call it a Comedor, ‘a dining room’,” ever-enthusiastic Joe tells us. “It will be completely different to the existing bar, which will carry on exactly as before. But the arrival of central charcoal cooking takes the operation onto a whole new level.
““We’ll be the only place in the UK to have this style of oven, With fire at our disposal we can cook a whole suckling pig or a milk-fed lamb and, especially exciting, whole fish, turbot or salt-baked sea bass, cooked from the top and bottom in the embers. That’s so typical of the Basque country.
“We’ll carve at table for seated customers from huge platters to share. We’ll still have a no booking policy, but while you wait for a table there’s plenty to occupy you at the bar.”
It’s an understatement to say that Joe and wife Fiona are fervent Hispanophiles. Joe was introduced to and fell in love with the Pereruelas on his regular reccies over there.
All should be up and running by early July, giving us yet another excuse to make the gastronomic pilgrimage. It’s only three years since the Bothams set up Levanter, 18 months from Baratxuri arriving. It certainly saves on plane tickets to Bilbao.
Baratxuri, 1 Smithy Street, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 9AT.
Below, a couple of dishes to remind you how good the pintxos are at Baratxuri.