Harden's survey result
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“The hype is justified!” – This “dazzling addition to the Manchester restaurant scene” (which moved into town last year) is THE destination in the city-centre right now (and Manc’s most commented-on venue in this year’s survey). A three-floor operation incorporating bar and rooftop level, it serves Simon Shaw’s “creative small plates, in Spanish style and with Moorish influences” and despite the odd quibble that “it’s not as good as the smaller, tighter set-up it was in Ripponden” most reporters feel its tapas is “some of the best ever”. All this popularity also brings a few negatives though – at peak times service can become “disorganised”, you run the gauntlet of “inhospitable door nazis”, and “some diners have a touch of the Harry Enfields about them: ‘I am considerably richer than yow’!”
“Manchester’s gain is Ripponden’s loss” and after less than a year, Simon Shaw is already looking to expand his “slick, very large city centre operation” (adding 50 covers in the rooftop level), as it proves “a fantastic addition” and one “offering a different experience on each of its three floors”. “It being Manchester, there is a serious bar-element to the business”, and “it’s a great place to eat or just enjoy a glass of wine and nibbles”. “Scaling up the food production from Ripponden to King Street does not seem to have been a problem” – “the majority of the tapas are not merely correct, but excellent” – and overall this is “a successful transfer to a cracking new site”.
Simon Shaw is relocating his “splendid” Hispanic venture to Manchester, opening in February 2016. Our review when it was in Ripponden said it was in “the last location you would expect” – hopefully it will repeat its success and more so in this new home.
El Gato Negro was born from Simon Shaw’s fascination with, and love of, Spanish food and wine. While working in London Simon visited Catalonia and the Basque country, immediately succumbing to the diversity, excitement and informality of modern Spanish cuisine, especially tapas. Determined to bring this then under-appreciated cuisine to a wider audience, in 2005 Simon returned north to open El Gato Negro in a empty former pub in the Pennine village of Ripponden. Wishing for good luck, and with a nod to a favourite old shop in Madrid, he named it ‘El Gato Negro’ (the black cat in Spanish). Serendipitously it later transpired the pub had been called the Black Cat many years before.
Hard work, and perhaps a little of the black cat’s luck, paid off from the start, and the restaurant’s star rose steadily, picking up awards and accolades year on year. First regional, and then national food critics made their way to the picturesque Pennines to sample and celebrate a northern outpost of Spanish food. In 2009 El Gato Negro’s reputation grew further, winning best local Spanish restaurant in the country on Gordon Ramsay’s F Word. Reviews and listings continued to grow – and glow – as Simon refined a distinctive, bold and confident menu and style that was all his own. There were positive annual listings in the Good Food Guide; Hardens hailed El Gato Negro the ‘best tapas in the north’; The Times ranked it the number one tapas bar in the country; and finally the Michelin Guide awarded a prestigious Bib Gourmand to the restaurant in both 2014 and 2015.
In autumn 2014 we announced plans to bring Simon’s style of modern Spanish cooking to a wider audience, this time in the heart of Manchester city centre. Since then we’re delighted to have restored our beautiful building, developed an expanded and enhanced offering over three floors, and opened at our new home at 52 King Street. We hope can join us to experience the next chapter of El Gato Negro in Manchester.
Chef Patron / Creative Director
Simon is a highly experienced and respected restaurateur with over 35 years of experience, most notably as as Chef Patron of El Gato Negro and formerly Executive Head Chef at Harvey Nichols.
Originally from Yorkshire, Simon rapidly worked his way through the ranks at some of the county’s finest establishments before becoming the first Head Chef at Harvey Nichols’ restaurant in Leeds. After a stellar stint there he relocated to London; first heading up the kitchens the company’s prestigious City of London restaurant, before moving to the flagship Knightsbridge restaurant as Executive Head Chef.
During his time in Knightsbridge Simon visited Catalonia and the Basque Country, kindling his love affair with the diversity and excitement of Spanish cuisine. Inspired by this, in 2005 Simon returned north to open El Gato Negro in Ripponden. Simon is dedicated to finding the best produce both from Spain and locally, using these to best effect to create his exciting take on modern Spanish cuisine. Simon will lead the kitchen team and ensure the high standards of Ripponden will be delivered in Manchester.
El Gato Negro Restaurant Diner Reviews
"good escape from the shops but overpriced tapas and slow service"