I went to a little Spanish place called Levanter last year in Ramsbottom and have never forgotten it. I subscribe to The Week newsletter and they have a page listing their selection of the best and upcoming restaurants in the UK, and I was delighted (if, quite frankly, a little surprised – given its small size) to see Levanter featured a few months after I’d made my first visit.
It’s small, unobtrusive and doesn’t take bookings – it quickly became one of my favourite out-of-town restaurants so when I heard they had a sister tapas bar right by it I hotfooted it down there at the first opportunity.
Baratxuri is even smaller than Levanter and just what every tapas bar should be – casual, authentic, friendly and above all serving honest, great quality food.
The wine list is extensive and if you’re a red fan you’ll be in heaven – a selection of truly top-draw wines with a few full-bodied choices from Bilbao and surrounding regions is the order of the day here.
What I really fancied that afternoon though, was a nice chilled glass of sangria (I wasn’t feeling red so early in the day and I’m not a huge fan of white.)
The bartender looked truly apologetic that he didn’t have any of their winter ‘mulled’ sangria left, so I took a few more minutes to deliberate my drinks choice.
Meanwhile, we ordered the seafood platter – the special which is only available on Sundays – and tucked into a few ‘pinchos’ (snacks, or ‘pinches’ of food, as I always think of them) while we waited.
Baratxuri have these so-called pinchos set out on the bar counter for the taking at around £2 a pop and if you visit and manage to resist them your willpower is truly enviable. Options include mini Spanish tortilla bocadillos (sandwiches) alongside morcilla (spanish blood sausage, a little like black pud) bocadillas as well as manchego, fresh tomato and herb open sandwich and a few smaller nibbles to boot.
Before I could take that first glorious bite of my pincho the waiter set down a ruby red glass of glorious, fruity sangria before me, full to the brim with freshly sliced apples and oranges.
“Managed to steal some from ‘next door'” he winked at me – meaning of course, the sister restaurant Levanter. I was truly touched (it was pretty damn cold outside and he was under zero obligation.)
Seemingly small gestures like this, to me, sum up how humbling and friendly the staff here are – their unnecessary willingness to accommodate wherever and whenever they can is almost as heart-warming as the food they serve. It was such a refreshing change from staff who have the ingredients to make something perhaps not strictly on the menu yet refuse to try to accommodate due to lack of initiative, effort or care.
The chef had come out to tell us that the seafood platter would take about 25 minutes to cook and prepare, to make sure we had enough time. We were happy to wait but in reality it only took around 15 and it was as fresh as anything I’ve ever tasted.
The platter consisted of whitebait, freshly-cooked sardines, lobster, octupus pil pil, scallop on a bed of tender chorizo and stewed peppers, a seafood bisque and dressed crab, as well as a delicate pot of chopped herb tomatoes and soft fresh bread.
It tasted as good as it looked and to be honest I couldn’t decide what to start with! The home-made alioli which accompanied the platter was the perfect partner for the beautifully crisp whitebait and the octupus pil pil was the best I’ve ever tasted even around Madrid and Urgel – it had a real fiery kick too so if you’re into spice you’ll love this one (and if you’re not – heed this warning!)
The crab was delicately flavoured and the lobster tender, not quite up to the melt-in-your-mouth standard of 63 Degrees perhaps – but extremely tasty and the flavour combinations were in my opinion, beyond compare.
The seafood platter is priced at £35 and quite frankly was more than enough for two or three for lunch or dinner – especially considering more bread is readily available on request at no extra cost.
Levanter just down the road offer a Sunday platter which is alternatively red-meat focussed, if you’re an incurable carnivore. But if you’re a fish fiend like me – Baratxuri is the catch for you.
Ramsbottom is a bit of a trek, I grant you, but you will not be disappointed by the food here and there are some lovely cosy pubs and swish cocktail bars a short walk away if you fancy making a night of it or dining here for a special occasion.
I’m a true convert, and will certainly be making many, many return trips to this place now I’ve found it!