Tastes of Spain | El Rincon de Rafa, Manchester

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Hidden behind Deansgate is a little culinary gem that I have loved since the moment I set foot in there several years ago. El Rincon de Rafa (Rafa’s Corner) serves up authentic tapas in a beautiful rustic setting at obscenely reasonable prices (considering it’s city centre).

It’s fast become a treat date for Mr K and I, and we visited a couple of weeks ago – I decided to share a few thoughts on my favourite ever restaurant. Mostly because I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for 3 years and never mentioned it…

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Tottering down the stairs to the basement-level taverna always fills me with joy – the comforting aromas of Spain (oil, garlic, seafood) drift about you, promising delicious things. It’s like a little slice of Spain on home soil – something which transports me back to fond childhood memories.

As a duo, it’s very hard to get a table – the taverna is constantly bustling, and because of this they don’t take reservations for 2. It’s no problem for us – we’re quite content to sit by the bar, enjoying dos estrellas and watching the world go by. Incidentally, it’s not uncommon whilst waiting to see the cast of Corrie, or even some has-been celebrity taking a lunch break from The Palace pantomimes (we’ve seen Jason Donovan there). It’s easy enough to while away a couple of hours sat here waiting – and it doesn’t hurt the bank. 2 pints costs around £7 which is about standard for Manchester city centre.

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We’re usually seated within 20 minutes, and that’s when the magic starts. We have some go-to dishes we mostly order every time;
Filetitos – steak cooked in cream and brandy
Patatas Bravas – Potato in tomato salsa
Pulpitos en Salsa – Baby octopus in tomato sauce
Gambas Pil Pil – Prawns in chilli
Magro en Salsa – Pork in honey sauce
Chorizo al Vino – Chorizo in red wine
Albondigas – Meatballs in tomato sauce

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The menu is extensive, enticing and above all, authentic. Many hours have been spent (not wasted) at this stage pondering what to try next – but the truth of it is that you’ll never be disappointed. Their paella is addictively good, as are their specials and stews (try the Galician stew).

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Like good tapas, the dishes arrive in drips and drabs – the focus is on eating whilst you chat, and we’ve had some of our best conversations whilst waiting for the next few dishes to arrive.
We tend to pick slowly, biding our time until all of the dishes have reached us.
They aren’t skinny with bread, which is great news as the sauces are the absolute best – we rarely send a dish back without wiping it completely clean. You just have to watch – the table staff are very quick to clear away – sometimes before you’ve finished with your sauce!

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It’s easy to while away a few hours (or even a whole half a day) in El Rincon de Rafa – arriving for a “quick bite” before going out almost always results in leaving at closing time – happy and full of food.

As a guide point, ordering all of the above with 2 beers cost us around £35 – so it’s absolutely value for money, and I’d happily pay double. The staff are great (they help with your Spanish too!) and always happy to have a chat with you, when they can find time.

If you live in Manchester, you probable know about El Rincon (if you don’t – go!). For visitors, I’d seriously recommend making this part of your touring schedule because you will absolutely not find a place this good anywhere else.

Kitty

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