Location: London, England
Traditionally, manteca means “grease” in Spanish, but today Spanish speakers usually mean lard. However, it can technically mean any oil, grease or fat. Therefore, there really is no more appropriate name for this restaurant in Shoreditch as all dishes incorporate some sort of fat, whether it be lard or butter.
I’m a pescatarian, so at first, it might seem strange for me to love a restaurant that prides itself on its meat dishes, including its salumi. However, I admire the restaurant’s nose-to-tail philosophy. Even for their salumi, they use the leftover little parts of meat that don’t make it into a dish. Nothing is wasted and I think that’s an amazing way to use and present food. But, the reason I love this restaurant so much is because they treat their vegetables in the same wonderful way. I first visited manteca in April 2022, and then again in May 2023, both with springtime menus. I’ve combined both experiences below, which will hopefully give you a good idea of this amazing restaurant.
manteca’s dishes are designed to be shared, so they’re all fairly small in size. The menu starts with small bites, like olives, focaccia and their house salumi. We of course got the focaccia, which I highly recommend. And for both visits, we got the ricotta, the first time being with roasted grapes and pangratatto and the second being with courgette and chilli. You can tell the ricotta is really good quality.
The second part of the menu consists of small, light plates. During both visits, we got the agretti & fennel salad, seaweed, chilli. And during our second visit, we also got the new season asparagus, preserved lemon, dill, cured egg yolk and the spring pea salad, kohlrabi, mint, ticklemore. All dishes were delicately prepared and delicious.
Victor’s dad got the spicy lumache, “alla vodka”, tomato, chilli. During both visits we got the brown crab cacio e pepe. The dish was made with tonnarelli (a thicker spaghetti) the first time around, which was lovely, but the dish during our second visit was made with strozzapreti (an elongated hand-rolled pasta) and I have to say it was even yummier that time!
Do not skip the seasonal veggie pasta. I repeat: do not! Our first veggie pasta here was the rigatoni, kale sauce, chilli, parmesan. During our second visit, we got the wild garlic chitarra, egg yolk, parmesan.
At the end of your pasta, manteca gives you some small pieces of focaccia to mop up all the leftover sauce!
The fourth part of the menu of dishes that are more like mains, though still meant to be shared. During our second visit, they only had meat mains, but oftentimes they’ll have a fish or veggie option too. For example, during our first visit, we got the spring pea & vegetable ragu, toasted spelt, scamorza, nigella seeds.
The dessert menu had something featuring blood orange both times! We got the blood orange and lemon curd the first time, and then the panna cotta with blood orange jelly the second time. The latter was absolutely my favourite!
The first time I visited manteca I discovered the joy of espresso with zabaglione. It has been one of my favourite desserts ever since, and every time I go to an Italian restaurant I ask if they have it. It’s not as common in London as you would expect, so you can imagine I was thrilled to get it again during my second visit.
While the atmosphere is a bit manic and the cooks and waiters are running around to loud, energetic music, the food is delicate and sophisticated. It’s such a pleasure to eat their food, and I can’t wait to visit again sometime soon. Maybe I’ll finally get to try a non-Springtime menu!
Looking for another Italian restaurant in London? Perhaps try Lina Stores.