Harley Young is transported to Spain (in a manner of speaking)
Totally subjective rating: 9/10 for an informative yet hilarious showcase of moreish Spanish wines and complementing tapas in an intimate setting.
What: A river cruise with tapas and sample-sized glasses of Spanish wine, complete with two full-sized measures of your favourite tipple.
Where: Departs from Castlefield Bowl and heads towards Media City (then back again)
What The Liquorists say: “We've had a love affair with a number of Spanish wines for years at Grape to Grain and we've always been keen to showcase them on a cruise...And now we are! A unique format compared to our other wine cruises…”
What we say:
Who knew that Spain was so close to Manchester? Inside of it, in fact?
Ok, that’s not quite true. But one hospitality group called The Liquorists has created an experience that helps you feel like you’re cruising up the Duero river on a yacht (even though you’re really trundling along the Bridgewater canal on a barge).
After boarding at Castlefield Bowl, you’re given a glass of cava and left to choose your table.
It's intimate, but that’s to be expected. I mean, can you really get much more intimate than 50 people on a barge together? Probably not. Take your seat amongst other eager couples and groups and you’re ready to set off on your holibobs. Kind of.
The boat engine roars into motion and the host for the evening bellows down the aisle as he begins his introduction. He’s both hilarious and informative. Mine and my partner’s cheeks ached from laughing as he told comical tales of guests who’d regrettably ignored the safety instructions while onboard the boat.
We’re then introduced to our first wine of the evening, a crisp and refreshing white, followed by another slightly fruitier one. These are served in 50ml measures, providing just enough of a taste for sampling without needing to shuffle your way through to the end of the barge to the loo.
All the while food in the form of authentic tapas dishes like padron peppers, Spanish omelette, cheeses, meats and bruschetta is being served in waves. The plates and cutlery are those wooden recyclable ones, not bone China and the finest silverware as you’ve probably gathered by now, but it doesn’t detract from the good food, service and overall experience.
Perhaps, like us, you’ll spark up conversation with the couple sitting next to you and realise that they’re a Spanish couple who took the trip as an alternative Friday night out but were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the produce.
Another round of wines is delivered - red this time. As an avid red wine drinker these third and fourth sample glasses were right up my street, or should I say canal/river/wherever we were at this point. So much so that we decided to order them again for our two full-sized measures.
For a sweet finish, the crew brings everyone a 50ml glass of sherry. Just in case you weren’t already feeling sozzled enough. Then, in what feels like 10 minutes after stepping onto the boat but in fact has been three whole hours, it’s time to depart the barge and go home.
Ok, so the views might not be there. But as for atmosphere, entertainment and quality food and drink, Costa Del Sol-ford ticks all the boxes. These ‘sauce sessions with a difference’ are a great way to explore the city’s waterways with a large glass in hand.
And, if you fancy a laugh, it's a good way to trick your partner into thinking you’ve booked a romantic trip to Andalusia until the tram goes past Cornbrook. By then, that excited twinkle in their eye has disappeared and they’ve realised they’re not actually heading to the airport.
Follow Harley Young on Twitter @Harley__Young
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