THE influence of Altrincham Market cannot be underplayed. Its presence has spawned a thriving cluster of bars and restaurants. On a summer evening the corner of Shaws Road and Greenwood Street could be some buzzing paseo route in a Spanish town. Which makes Porta’s choice of location all the more apt.
The Chester-based tapas bar originally planned to open its first Manchester outlet in the Northern Quarter but that fell through, so here they are facing the steps of the award-winning Market House, part of a parade of popular bars – The Con Club, The Belgian Bar, Riddles, Mort Subite with The Cellar and Pi nearby.
That’s handy. Like hugely popular Sugo Pasta Kitchen across the road, they operate a no booking policy. So the bars are handy ‘satellites’ to wait your turn for equally tiny Porta, too. There was a waiting time of 45 minutes on the Wednesday ToM popped by.
Was it worth the wait? Definitely. Two inevitable tapas benchmarks impressed. The tomato bread (£3.95) came as two huge sourdough chunks with ample fresh tom topping and three jamon croquetas (£4.50) were crisp outside, gooey inside.
Both were eclipsed, though, by a special of fried Monte Enebro goat cheese with honey and orange segments. Fragrant and exquisite, even better than the version at city centre Lunya.
Purple spouting broccoli in a romesco sauce scattered with toasted almonds (£4.95) was let down by tough stems, but two contrasting meat dishes were both successes.
Presa Iberica (£9.50) was thin slices of seared, pinkish pork given oomph by a spicy mojo verde green sauce, while fibrous chunks of slow-cooked ox cheek and pickled walnuts (£6.95) was piquant perfection.
Not sure how Spanish pickled walnuts are, but then Porta, with English owners and few obvious Spanish staff does not flaunt Iberian cliches. It’s a shame there are not more fish dishes beyond the holy trinity of squid, anchovy and prawn.
Sweets too are not a priority. A chocolate mousse (£4) probably didn’t need its shards of hioneycomb, while the alternative, while a £2 pastel de nata (Portuguese egg pastry) wasn’t a patch on Lisbon’s finest.
From pickled guindilla pepper nibbles to the pastel all the dishes came in an unholy rush – curse of any small plate outfit. We were told, don’t order all at once but surely a professional kitchen can pace things better.
Final, small, quibble – Porta advertises itself as a wine and tapas bar. A choice of four sherries, three pudding wines and three each of rad and white does not a wine bar make. Do go, though, for the splendid food. There’s more to Altrincham now than the Market Hall.
Porta, 50 Greenwood St, Altrincham WA14 1RZ. Closed Mondays. 0161 465 6225. http://www.portatapas.co.uk/altrincham/about/