Food profile - Canto, Ancoats, Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 September 2019
The fresh tastes of the Mediterranean, in relaxed, easy style
My favourite thing about holidays is the food. Yes, of course I love the sunshine, the rich colours of the sky and sea, the scents of aniseed and pine and the sounds of waves washing the beach, crickets calling in the evening and my children actually talking to me - but every day and in every way it's the food that thrills me most. A dozen different types of chorizo, huge peaches, fresh-as-fresh seafood and fish, enormous green melons, scarlet tomatoes, thick slices of tortilla, bowls of olives, cheese enough to start a street stall…you get the picture. While we often attempt to re-create those hot summer day picnics at home, it's just never the same, is it? Step forward Canto.
Canto offers a fabulously tempting menu of tapas and small dishes from across the Med. My hopes were up for an authentic experience right from the first glance, but I have been disappointed before, so kept a lid on my enthusiasm for the moment.
The venue is bright and airy, with huge windows looking over into Cotton Square in Ancoats, which is possibly the most continental part of Manchester you will find, especially on a summer's evening. People watching is always fun, and especially when accompanied by a Mojito and a large bowl of olives. Inside, despite it being a Tuesday night, there was quite a crowd, imparting a happy, chatty ambience, with busy wait-staff circling around.
The menu is made up of small plates - no single serve main courses, just lots of sharing and tasting and dipping into other's choices. You will recognise all the ingredients as typical of their nation - Spain, Portugal, Italy - but they have been given a contemporary twist, with the occasional fusion moment for added cool. They are all so tempting we took a little while to narrow down our choices, with Mike in the abdicating all responsibility. Oh, the pressure!
Eventually I settled on five and I think I did quite well! They come when they're ready, so first up came Catalan bread with olive oil, garlic and fresh tomato (£3.50) which shot me straight back to my time living near Girona, living on fresh baguettes rubbed with olive oil, garlic and tomato. This version was rather more generous, loaded with tomato and beautifully seasoned - utterly delicious, I would have ordered another immediately, if the rest of the order hadn't started to arrive.
I have never had Burrata before, which, it turns out, was a big mistake. Canto's Burrata with confit tomatoes, basil and crostini (£7) was a revelation - creamy, soft cheese lifted with mouth-wateringly sweet tomato and a dazzle of basil. Oh my. It was perfectly paired with the 18 months cured Ibérico ham shoulder (£10), which was just as we had hoped it would be - fine slices of beautifully marbled ham, with tht unique nutty oiliness and mouthfeel. Next - another classic: Grilled chorizo, roasted potatoes and piquillo pepper purée (£7), which had our eyes rolling back in their sockets with the joy of it. Mike's only stated preference of Chargrilled beef fillet, piquillo pepper, spinach, roasted potatoes and red wine sauce (£10) was rich and deeply flavoursome.
This is perhaps the greatest pleasure of Mediterranean dining - the number of flavours you can place on one table, with none of them clashing or fading into the mix. Bliss.
To finish - two café cortados and two Portuguese pastel de nata, of course. As a breakfast option nothing beats that, but to close a delicious meal - perfection.
Cutting Room Square, Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 5DH