WE went back to Baratxuri to investigate their custom-made ‘Pereruela’ clay oven, commissioned from the hamlet of that name in the high mesas of Castilla. It was Sunday lunchtime with suckling pig very much on our mind… and on the menu. We left, swept away by seafood plucked from the rough Basque waters of Biscay.
The rustic new oven sits in the original bar space but because of it the acclaimed Ramsbottom pinxtos joint has expanded next door, creating a Comedor or dining room with table service. An open kitchen straddles both rooms.
What makes the Pereruelas, fashioned from refractory clay in the village factory since the 15th century, so special is their suitability for roasting whole animals or fish. Hence a whole new menu direction for Baratxuri’s hispanophile head honcho Joe Botham.
We know he’s been to Pereruela; we suspect he’s no stranger to Getaria up the coast from San Sebastian. The menu namechecks the fishing port as source of my racion starter, Kikotxas Tres Maneres (cod throats three ways, £10). Not since roasted hamachi collar and salmon head at Umezushi in the city centre have I got so close to a fish’s cranium.
Kikotxas are small gelatinous pieces extracted from just under the cod (or hake’s) mouth. Think chewing on a small double chins, which I did in deep fried form, a la plancha and uber gloopy in a salsa verde. So hardcore my partner passed but I relished the textures and the daring of such a dish out in a Lanky mill town.
But then Joe set the template with Levanter, winner of Best Neighbourhood Restaurant in the 2016 Manchester Food and Drink Awards; now baby brother Baratxuri, a couple of doors away is up this year for Best Casual Dining and Best Out of Town gongs. Maybe the addition of the Pereruela will be the clincher.
It certainly turned our heads with its effect on another racion, Pulpo a la Gallega, octopus roasted over embers with potatoes and pimenton (£8). It’s a dish I love but I’ve never eaten a version with such smoky concentration, even in Galicia.
Our £35 main to share from the Asador oven menu was equally marvellous – wood fire roasted Rodaballo (turbot) – but we would have been happy with any pick from Cocinillo (Segovian loin suckling pig), Cordera a La Vara (lamb fillet), Pollo y Verduras (whole chicken) and the delightfully titled Lubina Infiernillo (little hell), which is whole salt-baked sea bass.
All are served whole and carved at table (there are seven in the Comedor). In the case of the Rodaballo this was pure theatre. As the crisp skin and was eased off the bone, revealing glistening white flesh wisps of smokiness added to the whole sensory overload.
This is great, simple cooking, enhanced by the the sharing ethos. Ramsbottom is such a lucky little town to have this authentic feeling Bsque enclave. It certainly saves money on a flight to Bilbao.
Baratxuri, 1 Smithy Street, Ramsbottom, Bury BL0 9AT. No booking policy. It is definitely no hardship to sit at the bar with a copa of manzanilla sherry or Alhambra beer while a Comedor table comes free.