By Jo Cooksey
Having booked a little city break to Porto, in Portugal, I thought it might be a good time to give Canto in Ancoats a proper whirl and try some authentic Portuguese dishes.
Canto, sister restaurant to El Gato Negro, serves up Mediterranean style tapas and is run by Head Chef, Carlos Gomes, who it happens was born and began his culinary career in Porto. This was definitely a good place to try some Portuguese delicacies.
The restaurant is celebrating its first birthday and is on Cutting Room Square in Ancoats, just up the road from my office. We nipped up after work one Thursday and took advantage of the 3 for £15 offer, which is available until 7pm Wednesday to Saturday and all-day Sunday.
Built around small plates, the Canto menu is seasonal, fresh and sings of the Iberian Peninsula. From the freshest of fish to chargrilled meats to innovative vegetables, all tastes are catered for.
First up was a plate of Catalan Bread. Artisan, crusty bread covered with smushed, fresh, sweet tomatoes, fragrant garlic and drizzled with peppery olive oil. Accompanied by the classic tapas dish of Roasted Potatoes with a Tomato Bravas Sauce and garlicky Aioli. Both great places to start while we waited for the other dishes.
Both of us love fish and seafood so we chose two dishes around that theme. The first of which were the Salt Cod Fritters, (or Bolinhos de Bacalhau to give them their Portuguese name), served with a homemade Tartare Sauce. They are so tasty. Dried, salted cod or Bacalhau, is a staple in Portugal and is sold unwrapped and stacked high in supermarkets. It smells very fishy in its dried state but once it is soaked and brought back to life it is a supremely tasty ingredient. We also saw a lot of shops in Porto that specialized in selling just Bolinhos de Bacalhau, which you buy wrapped in a sheet of greaseproof paper to enjoy in the shop with a glass of local port or taken out as a very portable snack.
A Little of What You Fancy
Our second fish dish was Grilled Sea Bream with an unctuous, creamy Basil & Manchego Risotto. I could quite happily have had that as a main course if this wasn’t a small plates concept. We wanted a variety of dishes from across all sections of the menu, so we also chose Burrata, sprinkled with finely chopped chives, trickled with emerald olive oil and accompanied by thinly sliced pieces of Crostini. Oh, my goodness! Burrata, is my new obsession. Think a pillowy mozzarella type outer shell but with an even softer, gooier, creamy centre. Cheese heaven.
The last dish was three Chargrilled Pork Skewers served on Harissa Spiced Hummus. I love Middle Eastern food and these little shish kebabs were gorgeous, but I wasn’t getting a lot of North African spice from chickpea dip.
Room For Dessert
My pal and I virtually flipped a coin when it came to pud. Initially, we both wanted the Almond Tart with Mascarpone but in the end, I chose the Mixed Summer Berries with Mini Meringues & Lemon Mousse and we both tried each other’s. The almond tart was similar to a Bakewell Pudding. I don’t mean the toothachingly sweet, thick icing covered confections that Mr Kipling dishes up but the proper Derbyshire delight of frangipane in a pastry case but without the jam. Yum! The lemon Mousse of my dish was sharp but creamy and went really well with the burst of berry flavours and the crunch of the tiny meringues.
Will We Return?
Small plates are an ideal way to eat for me because it gives me chance to try a wide selection of dishes. I also love the sociability of eating this way. Everyone trying, tasting and comparing. Whether there are two of you or twenty. We ate from the Summer menu, but I believe an Autumn one is imminent, so we’ll just have to go back and check it out. It would be rude not to. Especially if the 3 plates for £15 early evening offer continues.
We were gifted our food and drink, but thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.