Restaurant Review: Camino, Shoreditch

Tasty Tapas at Camino Shoreditch

Where does Camino Shoreditch fit into the hyper-competitive London restaurant scene? I mean, how many tapas restaurants does London need? Probably not the existing 1,000,000, but it needs this one. I’m not generally a fan. Predictable menus, lazy dishes, bland interiors, boring wines, laboured service – none of which were on display at Camino Shoreditch.

That said, Camino Shoreditch did get off to something of a false start and my above fears were pricked. Despite being well-passed opening time, firmly within the realms of lunch, I was the first to arrive, and both the front and back of house weren’t prepared. I should of known the restaurant would have been quiet, run by a nation of people who think nothing of heading out to dinner at 11:00pm. However, this early confusion was rectified by top-quality complimentary olives and warm service through the early afternoon.

Camino Shoreditch Spanish Tapas Restaurant Review
One of each please! Camino’s all Spanish Wine List

On to the food. What do the olive-skinned, almond-eyed, bootylicious brunettes of Basque have in common with the bald, bulky blokes of Bury? Not a lot I imagine, except for one prized commodity, Black Pudding. Despite being English,  indeed Northern, I graciously congratulated our Spanish friends for beating us at our own game, after devouring a well-presented slate full of the black and bloody stuff.  Camino call it Morcilla De Burgos and it’s served with feisty alegría peppers.

Camino Shoreditch Restaurant Review London Tapas Spanish Theme
Banging Black Pudding, Bury would be envious (possibly)

Then the posh egg and chips came. That was taking the piss. “Can they leave us with anything to hold onto?” I moaned to the Mrs, who’d aurally blocked me out by default anyway. The once friendly rapport with the front of house soured as I lamented the delay of Brexit.

Camino Shoreditch Restaurant Review London Tapas Spanish Theme
Posh Egg & Chips at Camino

My churlishness soon softened when the seemingly innocent Arroz Negro or black rice appeared. Wow. I didn’t know it was possible to get rice so interesting. If I could travel to Spain and learn nothing except how to cook rice exactly like that at home, it would be a trip worth making. That said, it’s essentially Bomba rice with cuttlefish, squid ink and alioli.

Camino Shoreditch Restaurant Review London Tapas Spanish Theme
Amazingly silky black rice

The duck didn’t last long. Beautifully pink, juicy as anything. Cooked in something delicious, that I was too high on protein to take note of.

Camino Shoreditch Restaurant Review London Tapas Spanish Theme
Delightful duck, fatty but not too chewy

I can only imagine what the Camino whole suckling pig would offer (available with 48 hours notice), at a not outrageous £180 considering it serves eight people generously. I’m greedy, but not that greedy. I was happy enough with some crispy croquettes instead.

Camino Shoreditch Restaurant Review London Tapas Spanish Theme
Golden and crispy Camino Croquettes

Then came the cheese. Again all excellent. Five neat portions demonstrating different flavours, with zippy quince and nutty fig and almond crispy bits. This was turning into a restaurant I planned to return to.

Camino Shoreditch Restaurant Review London Tapas Spanish Theme
Strictly Spanish cheeses at Camino

Regarding service, the young Camino server took pride in highlighting which dishes were regional to his home town, and took pleasure in sharing the joy of discovering the wines. Inexperienced yes, but a credit to the restaurant.

Camino Shoreditch Wine Prices

Founder Richard Bigg is said to “take enormous care in seeking out the best Spanish wines” which was evident. From the first sip, I knew I was looking at something unexpectedly special from a casual dining lunch spot. I loved the Camino Wine List, trying several full-bodied, smokey but balanced reds, some from regions and varietals for the first time.

At the time of writing, the cheapest bottle of wine at Camino Shoreditch, excluding half-bottles and service charge, were a Spanish (obviously) Tempranillo/Granacha blend from Castilla La Mancha or a Verdejo/Chardonnay blend from Castilla y León both at £21.50. Conversely, the most expensive bottle of wine, excluding magnums and service charge, was a Rioja Reserva, actually a Tempranillo/Graciano by Beronia for £140, with no vintage stated.

Camino Shoreditch Review Score

Scanning the bill, Camino wasn’t cheap for casual lunch, which soon racked up well over a hundred pound for two. That said, nobody forced me to drink wine, and in the evening I suspect the atmosphere is even better. The tapas was outstanding, so I guess you get what you pay for.

Atmosphere 7  Cost 7  Quality 9  Service 9

Find Camino Shoreditch

Other Restaurant Reviews of Camino Shoreditch

  • Sharking For Chips and Drinks: “…you feel instantly transported to an authentic Spanish enclave, due to terracotta coloured walls…”
  • Crummbs: “…arroz negro was deliciously rich and garlicky (not a dish for a first date!)…”

Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester

Terrific Tapas At El Gato Negro

El Gato Negro – The Black Cat – an Edgar Allan Poe tale and a charming tapas restaurant halfway up Manchester’s upmarket King Street. Tapas, at least in England, I often find is predictable and inauthentic. Not here. El Gato Negro provided a welcome contrast with intriguing plates and a casual service style where ordering little and often was the order of the day. The tapas dishes were prepared in quick succession, and staff were never far away in an intimate dining room.

Stuff didn’t take long to arrive. I didn’t trust the Guindilla Peppers and eyed them up suspiciously – where they going to melt my mind or tickle my tongue? Neither. They tasted curiously of Pickled Onion Monster Munch, which was no bad thing, oddly endearing if anything. Its cousin Mr Padron Pepper – unheard of to me three years ago, now everywhere – were fresh, flavourful and rightly generous on the rock salt. I suggest the 2017 Award For Most Awesome Sounding Dish is given to ‘Gin Cured Salmon w/ Truffle Honey on Toast’. which tasted as good as it sounded. Although expensive, this little bundle of joy was well-balanced, somehow harmonious and unique to at least Manchester.

The ‘Bikini’ was disappointingly not a swimsuit model but a rather pedestrian, small, ham and cheese toasty – fine but I didn’t see what the big deal was about. Manchester seems to have become the Mecca of sweet potato fries. Spice addiction, homelessness and sweet potato fries have had the same rocketing trajectory in the city. I remember being blown away by amazing sweet potato fries in Odd Bar NQ ten years ago, now I eat them with every other meal. I sense every Manchester restaurant feels obliged to serve them for fear of a being petrol-bombed. For the record, sweet potato fries at El Gato Negro provided a depth of flavour they had no right to have, with an ingeniously composed mango and chilli dressing.

This restaurant wants to sell you charcuterie, but the surprise star of the show was an ostentatiously elongated carrot. I’ve documented carrot inducing out-of-body experience levels of flavour before at Dinner By Heston and El Gato Negro’s offering was a delicious close second against Heston’s two Michelin stars. El Gato Negro’s equally elongated description of: ‘Chargrilled heritage carrots, aubergine purée, miso, walnut pesto and Manchego’, was an umami-filled revelation. I had something of a carrot based spiritual awakening. My root chakra was dancing. In Medieval times black cats were often regarded as demons, one walking passed was seen blocking your entrance to heaven. All this carrot-induced pagan mysticism began to all make sense, or maybe I’d had too much wine.

The savoury shenanigans were far from outdone by a beautifully presented sharing dessert with bells and whistles on. This ensemble of Spanish and European fancies was technically well-crafted but equally impressive on the palate. The perfect Barbie-pink macaroon was fought over and the ice-cream was as good as you’ll find anywhere. Those clever Spaniards nicked the best parts of French and Italian patisserie and created something quite special.

Service at El Gato Negro Manchester was organised, expressive but not overbearing. Genuinely friendly, irksomely handsome, tattooed Spaniards with broad smiles, open body language, speaking a hundred words a minute – I liked them a lot.

My only minor gripe from the well-oiled kitchen was most of the pescetarian dishes arrived together at the end, rather than interspersed through the procession. Perhaps the idea that not everyone is there to enjoy the good looking Catalonian chorizo and Iberico ham is a misnomer. That said, the menu well looked after vegetarians and pescetarians too.

The restaurant must be doing something right, as it is one of only few in the entire Greater Manchester area to receive Michelin’s Bib Gourmand. As helpful as ever, the guide enlightens readers with this stunning food insight: “Appealing tapas dishes include meats from the Josper grill“. Thanks for that.

Regarding value, these culinary dopamine hits came at a cost; but, El Gato Negro Tapas’ urban cool environment and numerous memorable flavours made it certainly worth it.

El Gato Negro Tapas
Review Summary

Atmosphere 8  Cost 7  Quality 10  Service 9

Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food
Padrón peppers with Halen Môn sea salt & Spicy-sweet guindilla peppers
Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food
Catalan bread with olive oil, garlic and fresh tomato
Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food
Bikini (toasted sandwich with jamón ibérico and manchego)
Salt cod croquetas, piquillo pepper purée and aioli
Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food
Gin cured salmon w/ truffle honey on toast
Chargrilled heritage carrots, aubergine purée, miso and walnut pesto, Manchego
Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food
Chargrilled sweet potato with mango, chilli and yoghurt dressing (GF)
Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food
A special selection of their favourite desserts

Find El Gato Negro Tapas