1 Oldham Road
I first went to El Gato Negro a good few years ago and was extremely impressed by the food, but then for some unfathomable reason (apart from the distance) never returned. But earlier this summer, I was making a list of restaurants to visit and revisit, and El Gato Negro came up. It's not even that far to Ripponden, which is just a short distance from Junction 22 or 23 of the M62. Easily done for me for lunch, though too far in the evening.
Inside, the building's former existence as a pub isn't entirely lost, with (reupholstered, thankfully) banquettes around the walls of the clearly identifiable former rooms. As you enter, there is a small ham and charcuterie slicing station before you go through to the main room and the bar it contains. Tables are fairly closely packed and a little cramped, but even on the hottest summer day the old stone building stays cool and airy.
Service is good and knowledgeable. A request for a glass of manzanilla was responded to with a quarter bottle of excellent manzanilla: a great solution to the problem of even 500ml bottles fading before they've been finished when served by the glass.
There's an interesting, short wine list pretty much exclusively Spanish, if I remember correctly. Sparkling and still water comes from a snazzy looking machine behind the bar - presumably it's filtered tapwater?
The menu is your placemat (plus some blackboard specials). You also order via your placemat, which I have to say feels a bit of a gimmick, but it works well: you nominate one person on the table to write the number of each dish you want in a little box next to each dish on the menu; the waitress takes that placemat away, presumably enters it onto the computer; and then the menu/placemat is returned to you.
On a couple of visits, we managed to eat through the better part of the menu. Everything was good, and while not everything was an absolutely unqualified success, there was nothing I'd not order again. Tapas restaurants are ten-a-penny these days, but none I've been to, even Paul Heathcote's late lamented Grado in Manchester, come anywhere close to El Gato Negro.
|Anchovy fillets on crostini|
|Acorn-fed jamón Ibérico from Barcelona|
|Hand-picked white crab meat, avocado purée and gazpacho|
|Beetroot salad with picos blue cheese|
|Morcilla scotch eggs|
|Interior of the morcilla scotch eggs|
|Grilled sweet potato topped with chorizo and baby squid|
|Spiced aubergine with lavash crisp bread and cucumber and mint dressing|
|The aubergine element of the same dish|
|Salt cod croquetas with aioli|
|Seared hand-dived scallops, pea purée, morcilla and crispy Pata Negra jamón|
Tortilla is on the menu as 'tortilla of the day' and is cooked to order (or at least ours was). I think today's tortilla was leek and cheese. Without doubt, the best tortilla I've had. So much lighter than you usually find, with the leek and cheese giving just a subtle flavour.
|Tortilla of the day|
|Duck egg yolk with Alejandro chorizo & migas breadcrumbs|
|New season rack of local lamb, alubia bean and rosemary purée, minted peas|
|Onglet steak with patatas pobres|
|Torta del Santiago|
An excellent torta del Santiago came warm from the oven, and was served with salted caramel ice cream.