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REVIEW: La Bandera | City Centre

Gordo on a new Spanish restaurant with good tuck and a banana fetish

Written by . Published on January 15th 2015.

REVIEW: La Bandera | City Centre

IF YOU havent been reading Gordo recently, you may have missed his current obsession with asking for authenticity in cuisines. Like the Editor, Gordo has a dislike of ‘twistson things.

Pintxos are the snacks found in bars across San Sebastian amongst other places, normally small slices of bread loaded with tuck. It’s a bit like those Swedish open sandwiches, but these have flavour. 

The number of chefs in the UK who are capable of taking an original classic recipe and put a successful ‘twiston it is tiny. They are as rare as hens teeth.

Last night Gordo took a recipe from the 1800's, ‘a port and claret grayve for a fat ducke’, replicated it faithfully and was rewarded with a strong, beautiful, sexy mouth experience. No 'twist' was needed and it would be a top seller in any restaurant today. It took eight minutes. Mind you, thats not counting the time it took to make Heston Blumenthals brown chicken stock (three days and four hours, not counting the wait for a full moon so it could bathe in moonbeams for half an hour).

Another Gordo gripe is a new restaurant that hasn’t reined in the half-wit marketing department who, for example, stamp all their paperwork with bold statements like 'THE BEST STEAK IN MANCHESTER. No its fucking not and Gordo for one will crucify you for it.

La BanderaLa Bandera

The Fat One was asked by the Assistant Editor to take a look at a new arrival that landed just before Xmas, La Bandera. Its on the former site of Harpers and later the woeful 2 Kozy restaurant, just off Deansgate on Ridgefield.

Gordo could tell a fabulous tale about a meeting held at Harpers in the early 70s between his Dad, Shady, Kenny ‘Mad ManPilkington and three gentlemen from South London, with a much fitter, younger and bored Gordo sitting on the table behind. 

The boredom disappeared when someone got hit with the blunt end of an axe, ‘to calm him down a bit, as Shady put it. Gordo, fresh out of a very nice Grammar School, nearly passed out with shock, but he will save that story for the book. 

All the villains used to use Harpers as a meeting place, unless they were looking for ‘straight readies (i.e. normal bank notes untainted with explosives residue), in which case they'd head to Sams Chop House on Friday afternoon where the local banking senior management could be found bladdered at four oclock.

La BananaLa Banana

So, it was with a sense of déjà vu that Gordo walked up the steps to La Bandera, and not a few twitches.

The place today is very different. To the left is a cocktail bar with tall tables designed for standing the way you do in the pintxo bars in San Sebastian. To the right, the restaurant proper. Its very yellow. It looks like its been designed by someone on a tight budget with a banana fetish. The whole restaurant has a wipe clean feel to it, not unlike the many restaurants on the strip behind Gordos favourite hotel in Bilbao, The Carlton. Its not necessarily a bad thing.

The front of house is, however, is very easy on the eyes and an utterly delightful young Spanish woman welcoming diners on arrival. Gordo picks a booth and is joined by editor Jonathan Schofield. Having lived in Madrid he is useful in these matters.

The tapas and pintxos look good. Pintxos, which you probably know, are the snacks found in bars across San Sebastian amongst other places, normally small slices of bread loaded with tuck. It’s a bit like those Swedish open sandwiches, but these have flavour. 

The menu is very Spanish (odd for a Spanish restaurant - Ed.). There are seventeen ‘Entrantes’, Tortilla Española (£4.75) is a dish that demonstrates ability in the kitchen. Both Schofield and Gordo consider themselves experts in the dish; normally they disagree. They need to be fresh, just cooked, warm, not hot, never cold and NEVER MICROWAVED. Egg and milk and potato, maybe a touch of garlic. Light but substantial. Both agreed; these were very good.


Mussel CroquetasCroquetas de Mejillón

Croquetas de Mejillón (mussels, £5.95) came on the half shell and looked like they weren’t until you bite in and find out. These would be perfect but were a touch too light on seasoning; maybe a squeeze of lemon into the bechamal, though far from traditional, would liven things up. Rabas de Calamar (deep fried squid, £6.50) were bang on the money, these guys hadn’t seen a freezer and were judged just right to give bite with flavour.

Gambas al Ajillo (King prawns with garlic and parsley £7.95) again showed great class, the prawns tender and interesting. Too much garlic for Gordo, but that’s a matter of taste. Great bread dipping stuff though.

Prawns In GarlicPrawns in garlic

Lobster RizLobster Riz

Arros Caldoso de Bogavante (rice with lobster cooked in a seafood broth £19.95) needs a little more work, being a tad too wet. Three or four more minutes on the stove would have seen the rice plump up a little more to mellow the broth. The thinking here is more risotto (yes yes, calm down) than soup. Quality of ingredients again were high, which shined through all the food.

Finally, a let down. The suckling pig (£20.95, minimum 2 people) wasn’t right. Dry, underwhelmingly seasoned, it had been reheated and it showed. The skin was patchy, it should be crisp with a layer of creamy fat beneath, the meat tender and succulent. It wasn’t. It looked bloody good though.

A side of Patatas salteadas (sautee potatoes with parsley garlic and onions £3.50), worked too, and the house salad (£2.95) - like Gordo - came well dressed.

Suckling PigSuckling Pig 

The wine list is Spanish and short. Vallemayor Rioja Crianza (£32.95) was described as ‘floral aromas with balsamic notes’; these descriptions baffle the Fat One, he noted ‘nice all round typical Tempranillo velvet, good finish’. The Viña Real Rioja Reserva was a tad overpriced at £53 but was nice to follow after the crianza, the step up is noticeable on the palette. If white is your game, there's a cracking value Raimat Abadia on at £18, which is also sold by the glass.

This restaurant is a welcome addition to the city. With Spanish two heavyweights soon arriving in Manchester like a steam train (El Gato Negro and Iberica) these guys need to concentrate hard for the next two months, winning punters before the others arrive. The wine list is not as good as Evuna, but the food is a couple of levels above in the main. It gives the two nearby Spanish chains on Deansgate a severe thrashing.

Follow @GordoManchester on twitter.

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commerical relationship.

La Bandera2 Ridgefield, Manchester, M2 6EQ. 0161 833 9019

Rating 14/20

Food: 6.5/10 (Tortilla 8, Croquetas 6, Calamar 8, Gambas 7, Arros 6, pig 5, spuds 7, salad 6)

Ambience: 3/5

Service: 4.5/5

Gordo recommends: The lunch offer, any three starters (exc. Pulpo and Solomillo) for £12.95 or a starter and main course for £19.95.

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing, 14-15 worth a trip, 16-17 very good, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

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30 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

I wonder how many of the footballers in the region will follow in Silva's footsteps and eat somewhere other than Carluccios? They must get bored eating at the same place every time.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

Do you mean San Carlo? Not being rude, but do they eat in Carluccio's? Seems odd, but then again I would be interested in being proved wrong...

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

2 Cozy has gone?......noooooooooooo

Gary OwenJanuary 15th 2015.

Anyone with any sense that wants Spanish Ambience, food and great experience, should look no further than El Rincon de Rafa, Longworthy St, St John Street. This restaurant has been established for near on 20 years and still you have to book in advance, this shows how a business can stand the test of time and gives great value for money. Look no further!

5 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

I don't think the food at El Rincon is a patch on what it used to be a few years ago. Certainly nowhere near the standard of some other Spanish places i've eaten at in this country recently.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

I cant agree more! staff are ok but food not so good. La Vina and La Tasca are just as bad.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

El Rincon not as good as was..Some of the staff are so rude....

AnonymousJanuary 16th 2015.

el rincon is pants.

AnonymousJanuary 17th 2015.

El Rincon used to be great but lately it's no better than the stink of piss from the toilets that hits you at the bottom of the stairs when you walk in.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

El Rincon staff are not Polite though Gary and that makes a difference mate.

AnocasJanuary 15th 2015.

Silva likes it coz its probably the most authentic spanish food you can have in manchester. Besides, Manchester has grown so much in the past few years that, people nowadays want to eat the real thing instead of "food cooked for foreigners".

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

Are you allowed to say 'foreigners' on Mancon?

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

A fair number of spaniards love El rincon.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

BETTER than that 1970's place that was there..Was stepping back in time.Taken by friends who loved it and served slop. This place is a great addition to the Manchester scene.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

I think English customers are too influenced by the twists on the SPanish food they are offered in England. I think this review is just according to the reviewer taste not a very objective opinion about traditional SPanish food. I've not visited this restaurant before but I will soon. About the croquetas de mejillón, needing the touch of lemon on the bechamel, I must say not everything should have lemon and traditional ones don't have. So... that would be a not needed twist. Another thing is that original SPanish omelette is onions eggs and potatoes. Full stop.. you can add twists if you want. Which is what high cuisine does. About the arroz caldoso being too much liquid in it.. well as it says is arroz in its own seafood broth. And.. believe me... if that one is too caldoso for you... just don't go to SPain inland villages. So... I really think this food does actually look amazing as you look at the pictures. And I think it's tge only SPanish restaurant I'll be going to from now on because it looks the most accurate traditional Spanish food restaurant without any ENglish twists in Spanish food such as: BREADED garlic mushrooms, GARLIC prawns when they are usually PIL PIL sauce (involves a different way of cooking them), etc. And most SPanish tapas places serve Fried food to dip in Mexican "Salsa" not existing in SPain, whereas we usually do most food in salsas=sauces like Pepitoria, Marinera, Romescu, de Almendras, Verde, or the typical Escabeche marinate. It's so good a proper Spanish restaurant has landed in Manchester! !! Best luck! !

3 Responses: Reply To This...
food for thoughtJanuary 15th 2015.

I need a siesta after reading your review

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

On contrary, I love your review!!!

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2015.

yes, you probably need a siesta everyday not as most Spaniards.

food for thoughtJanuary 15th 2015.

7.95£ for 4 frozen prawns is a joke

1 Response: Reply To This...
Henry VJanuary 16th 2015.

Right little ray of sunshine you are Food for Thought.

food for thoughtJanuary 15th 2015.

And 20 £ for a rice dish with a lobster shell isn't better

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 16th 2015.

Don' go then...

AnonymousJanuary 16th 2015.


Henry VJanuary 16th 2015.

as above

MaggieJanuary 15th 2015.

Sounds great, I'll be going! x

3 Responses: Reply To This...
food for thoughtJanuary 17th 2015.

I won't

AnonymousJanuary 18th 2015.

Good. You stick to what you know best.

food for thoughtJanuary 19th 2015.

I will

AnonymousJanuary 17th 2015.

El Rincon staff seem nice to me. Went three nights ago. Agree with the food...it's good but not amazing. For tapas, albeit a different nationality, it's Dimitris for me...sensational.

AnonymousFebruary 24th 2015.

Been. Great place. The only Spanish restaurant in Manchester that sells real Spanish food, not the Spanish-English or Spanish-Italian mix. Overall cooked to very good standard.

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