On paper at least, Manteca is a difficult restaurant to define. Broadly, it’s modern Italian, with a menu that includes a range of salumi cured in house; a short selection of hand-rolled pastas; and for the mains, fire-cooked cuts of meat and fish to share. In terms of sourcing, it’s almost entirely British-focused, with executive chef Chris Leach working directly with farmers and suppliers across the UK, promoting a nose-to-tail ethos by only using whole animal carcasses. And then there’s the name; taken from a Spanish word that principally means pork fat or lard.
Leach established Manteca with business partner David Carter in the summer of 2019 as the first tenants of short-term incubator project 10 Heddon Street, receiving rave reviews from The Guardian’s Grace Dent, among others. The pair subsequently launched it as a standalone restaurant on Great Marlborough Street in Soho later that year, before relocating to their now-permanent site in Shoreditch in late 2021.
The move to Shoreditch has given Leach the space to present his nose-to-tail concept as he always imagined it. This includes the installation of a subterranean hanging room – the nucleus of the restaurant’s salumi production; and an ‘evolved’ menu that include signatures from the Soho site as well as new dishes. They include a pig skin ragù topped with parmesan and served with a piece of crispy pig skin for dipping, which has become so popular with diners that it’s often only available to order now upon request as an off-menu item.
Housed in a former PizzaExpress, the restaurant’s simple design combines bare plastered walls, light woods and buttery yellow tones reminiscent of its pasta dishes to create a light space by day, but one that feels quite moody and atmospheric by night when the lights are dimmed.
While those who fancy a blowout meal are well catered for, a party of two could easily dine for under £40 per head, with drinks, and leave with both their bellies and their hearts full to bursting.