Being the shrinking little introvert I am, I tend to prefer a table-for-two in the corner with nothing more than a flickering candle for spotlight. If I had to create a dating profile, my bio would probably read something along the lines of: prefers dessert with two spoons rather than a smorgasbord for ten. However when an invite to Campo Viejo‘s Casa Campo Viejo fiesta landed in my inbox, I suddenly came over all sociable.
The invitation promised an evening of food, wine and conversation – only one of which I’m totally enamoured with but I’ll let my pen name help you decide which one that is. It also vowed that we would be leaving with a whole new understanding for the Spanish region of Rioja and the food and drink which are so synonymous with its rich history. With English summer fizzling faster than popping candy in a Pornstar Martini, the invite to experience a little slice of Spain (with a Michelin star, five-course meal to boot) came at just the right time.
The event was held at The Loft on Quay Street in Spinningfields, Manchester across town from Grill on New York Street and just round the corner from the fabulous Impossible bar. The Loft is a trendy, multifunctional event space designed to inspire alternative thinking morning, noon and night. Tricky to find along the street where it’s unsuspecting basement entrance is located but quite the impresser once you wind your way to the top.
As a blank canvas the venue is a light, airy space with a bar and quirky interior design features that have proven popular with the hospitality industry. I imagine it would function perfectly as a modern yoga studio too though with its expansive windows, lofty beams and rustic wooden floor. For this particular pop-up, hosted by Campo Viejo UK, the space had been adorned with a vibrant array of hispanic accents including miniature faux lemon trees, ethnic rugs and a mandatory classical guitar soundtrack. Ignoring the signature Manchester grey cloud peeking through the window, I allowed my senses to be transported 1,109 miles away to La Rioja.
Our host for the evening was the very beautiful and incredibly knowledgeable, Maria Huete who is a Pernod Ricard graduate and Campo Viego ambassador. In case you haven’t gathered by now, Campo Viejo is a popular wine brand which is widely available across the UK and produced in the province of La Rioja in southern Spain. The entire evening at Casa Campo Viejo was a celebration of the authentic wine so it will come as no surprise that everything on the drinks agenda was from the Campo Viejo repertoire.
I’m in no way shape or form any kind of a wine connoisseur – you know I prefer a dessert cocktail or one of my favourite gins – but when I do drink from the grape, red is always my go-to so our Sangria reception was a very welcome surprise. Throughout the course of the evening we enjoyed two wine tasting session hosted by Maria who talked us through the Campo Viejo Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo and each of their unique tasting notes. We sipped through various other samples picked to compliment the food menu including a fruity white Rioja and Campo Viejo’s classic Cava.
Not satisfied with seducing us into drinking surplus alcohol units on a school night, we were also lead through a fabulous wine blending experience in which we finessed our own bespoke blend of red wine to take home. Lab coats, iced water and cheese to nibble on – there was nothing these guys hadn’t thought of.
The food for the evening was by no means in the shadows of the wine, despite the theme of the event. The menu was expertly curated by Xabi Bonilla who has worked in some of the most acclaimed restaurants in San Sebastian and was the perfect edit to compliment the drinks being poured. The five-course luxury menu featured Spanish Tortilla with Tomato Sourdough Bread, Mushroom & Black Truffle Potato Ravioli, Codfish with Piperrada & Romescu Sauce, Beef Cheek in Campo Viejo Wine Stew & Season Vegetables and Crema Catalana Foam & Fruit ‘Sand’.
I don’t want to spoil the impact too much by explicitly dissecting every single dish just in case you are planning on going along to the Casa Campo Viejo event yourself but I will tell you each and every mouthful is as good as the last. My personal highlights had to be the garlic-rich tortilla (which I stole an extra slice of), the codfish and the beautiful, aerated Creme Catalan which I could have easily eaten ten times over. I think I’m going to go and update my foodie bucket list now and send a restaurant in San Sebastian where Banillo is at the helm straight to the top of the agenda!
The Casa Campo Viejo event is running until Saturday 23rd June in The Loft before it moves onto London so if you’re looking for things to do in Manchester over the next few days, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. Tickets are £40 each but for that you get enough Campo Viejo wine to make your knees wobbly, over 4 hours of incredible, immersive entertainment and five courses of delicious, Michelin star food – a true steal if you ask me.