Top cat: cocktails at Manchester’s El Gato Negro

El Gato Negro bar

Discover cocktails on the top floor of Manchester restaurant El Gato Negro

For nearly 10 years, chef Simon Shaw brought food lovers to his acclaimed tapas restaurant El Gato Negro in the Pennine village of Ripponden in West Yorkshire. After shutting at the start of last year, he has made his much-anticipated return with El Gato Negro in the more widely accessible location of King Street in Manchester city centre.

Specialising in authentic Spanish tapas, it has a relaxed drinking and dining space on the ground floor, including a bar area and charcuterie counter, and a less informal restaurant on the first floor. On the second floor is The Black Cat – a translation of the restaurant’s name – which is a stand-alone cocktail bar offering a Spanish-inspired drinks menu.

Filled with furnishings sourced from antique dealers and reclamation yards, the bar has extra appeal thanks to a retractable roof that opens up to the sky. Like the rest of the venue, the aim was to create a relaxed environment without heavy Spanish theming, explains designer Mark Mason. “We designed a comfortable, relaxing urban bar-restaurant that would sit easily in London or New York.”

El Gato Negro restaurant

The drinks at El Gato Negro have been developed by beverage manager Garry Foy, most recently at Manchester cocktail bar Elixir Tonics & Treats. At The Black Cat, he wants to make classic-style cocktails more accessible, he says, with a focus on premium spirits. “Classics are a massive part of the culture of mixed drinks and I feel that people have lost sight of this.” Some drinks evoke a sense of nostalgia such as the Parma Violet, inspired by the traditional sweet, mixing violet liqueur, limoncello and cherry bitters, topped with cava.

A section of sherry cocktails reflects El Gato Negro’s championing of Spanish wines and sherries. “The Dirty Tuxedo, with the Serrano ham garnish, provides this oily texture that excites the palate and prepares it for an evening of big eating,” Garry explains. “The Pedro is a perfect after-dinner treat, with the sweet, deep flavours of the Pedro Ximénez perfectly balanced with the Branca Menta, creating this light, continental After Eight sensation.”

A separate menu for diners features “approachable” cocktails such as a Quince Bellini, with Tio Pepe sherry, quince preserve, rosemary and cava, as well as a variety of tasty twists on a G&T using different gins. A selection of Spanish beers and ciders includes Barcelona’s Moritz and El Gato Negro’s own Spanish lager on draught alongside more local brews from the likes of Buxton Brewery and Manchester’s Squawk and Runaway breweries.

Garry says El Gato Negro aims to encourage people to explore and enjoy drinks in the same way as food. “The gap between food and drink is shrinking, and I want to do everything I can to continue to reduce that gap even further.”

El Gato Negro Tapas, 52 King Street, Manchester M2 4LY
Tel: 0161 6948585

El Gato Negro Tapas

Originally published in the May 2016 print edition of Bar magazine.

Previous Rebel Yell seeks 'adventurous' cocktails for Kentucky trip prize
Next Big Easy is recruiting for bar professionals at all levels