As I pen this al fresco appreciation of conjoined Ramsbottom restaurants Levanter and Baratxuri, both are preparing to re-open inside for the first time in many months. More choices again. Inside or out? It was difficult enough pre-Pandemic to pick which of the Botham family’s Iberian destinations to drop in on.
Latterly (it’s only relative) it was Baratxuri’s bar with its flurry of Basque pintxos that won out, but the pedestrian conversion of Square Street meant a joint reservation system and shared menu outside. So was a sunny Saturday lunchtime under the awnings the best of both worlds? Definitely.
The glory of Baratxuri, writ even larger at its Manchester Escape To Freight Island site, is Joe Botham’s way with fire. Yes, more wood-fired grills (check out my Heady Basque Mix of Woodsmoke and Wild Turbot). How then could we resist, from the asador, the Galician Xuleton, giant rib steaks from 10-year-old Capricion de Oro oxen dry aged for a minimum of 45 days?
There was a raft of on the day prices, dependent on weight from £51 to £80. We asked for the £60 for three of us. We were just charged the £51 for a serving that was easily enough – after a succession of support act pintxos. The txuleton (bone-in cut from former dairy cattle) came simply with padron peppers and dressed tomatoes.
The menu description uses the word ‘malty’. Not a word I’ve used about steak, but now I’m a convert. The dish was stupendous. Well rested, the charred flesh had a slight chew to it but was intense in flavour, the salt enhancing this rather than distracting.
What else did we have? Also from the wood-fired oven a tranche of that favoured Spanish fish, hake done a la gallega, ie Galician style, which involves spuds, garlic, chorizo and, in this instance, pea emulsion (£12).
Chorizo featured again inside the Baratxuri bar favourite, txistorra sausage rolls (£4.50), but this time took second place behind another snack at the same price, the sobrasada pintxo. Here Mallorcan soft cheese and PIco blue cheese are melted on tostadas with honey and walnuts.
We had started with an £8 plate of jamon serrano plus bread, oil and balsamic and salmorjo for dipping. I’m glad I saved some bread to mop up the goo of ember-roasted scallop, salt cod whipped potato and Iberico lardo – a clever little dish, again £8. Coliflor bravas (£5.50) hit the spot too.
The three of us shared a bottle of supple, complex Madai Mencia (£35), the great Northern Spanish red that isn’t Rioja and finally with the txuleton, which we knew we had to wait 40 minutes for, some actual Rioja. A belter of a Rioja at £8.40 the glass. The Carpess crianza was a spicy, cherryish dude, cloaked in the smoothest of oak overcoats. Bravo.
Levanter, 10, Square St, Ramsbottom BL0 9AT.