“The name ‘delicatessen’ is not just something to be tacked on to a sandwich bar” laments Peter Kinsella, co-owner of Lunya; the proudly independent, multi-award winning deli, restaurant and bar, which has venues in both Liverpool and Manchester.
He goes on to define what he thinks a proper delicatessen should be; a place that offers a stunning range of interesting food items that you just can’t find anywhere else. Somewhere miles ahead of what’s lining the speciality shelves of your local supermarket, or even the good quality niche products stocked in reputable farm shops.
Peter and his wife Elaine have scoured regions of Catalonia and Spain for inspiration, getting to the core of the dining culture to understand their inherent passion for eating and drinking. There are well over a thousand different products in Lunya’s delicatessens, each one cherry picked by Peter to represent the very best of Catalan and Spanish food. And each item has a story to tell.
We were lucky enough to be taken on a tour to learn a little more about each foodstuff and how it earned its place on Lunya’s shelves. “You don’t need to be a technically accomplished chef to cook decent Spanish food,” Peter tells us, “you just need prime ingredients to be able create a range of excellent tapas.”
It soon became apparent why the Spanish are masters of snacking and grazing. Peter talked us through Lunya’s range of olives – Spain grows more than twice as many as the next largest global producer. They sell around fifteen different types, either loose in the counter, or in jars on the shelves. Many are marinated and stuffed on the premises (a whopping ten hours per week are devoted to curing and stuffing olives at Lunya) and they are all quite different.
There are green Manzanilla olives stuffed with peppers; short-cure, firm fleshed Caspe olives marinated in olive oil, fennel seed and garlic; tiny green and purple Arbequina olives with their distinct Catalan flavour and cracked Verdial olives flavoured with bay leaf, garlic and smoked paprika. The most popular is the giant Gordal olive hand-stuffed with fresh orange segments and chilli. Along with the olives in the counter, Lunya also sells giant caper berries, pickled garlic cloves and pepinillos; tiny pickled cucumbers - all of which are a perfect companion for sliced cured meats or Spanish cheeses – of which Lunya stock over 40 varieties.
Peter directed us to some of Lunya’s fantastic Spanish crisps and snacks, including a range of relatively luxurious crisps from Torres, better known for making wines such as Vina Sol, but are now branching out into food. They use local potatoes, fried in sunflower and olive oil until crisp then infused with natural flavours such as crispy ground Serrano ham, dehydrated caviar or real black truffle.
We also loved the unusual nachos le morcilla, a snack which reflects the Moorish influence on Catalonia 700 years ago. Peter spent three years trying to source these very special, deceptively light black pudding snacks – think meaty quavers.
Visitors to Spain will be familiar with cocktail fuet and chorizo which Lunya display in counter top jars. These bite-sized cured sausages are so popular in Spain that they’ve taken over from popcorn as the favoured cinema snack. You’ll also find jars of huge salted Marcona almonds and giant Spanish hazelnuts, perfect for pre-dinner drinks.
Lunya sells packets of the popular habas fritas, picantes and kikones – giant baked broad beans and corn snacks which are the ideal partner for sherry or a gin and tonic. La Baturica might have slightly traditional packaging, but these familiar and much loved snacks from Zaragoza are the best.
An array of unusual jars and tins line the shelves. Discover a number of interesting condiments which will liven up all manner of foodstuffs – several types of vinegar, pickles and even tubes of luxury jellies and jams which would turn anything simple into special tapas or an impressive meal. Readymade sauces and dips include two types of alioli, as well as red and green mojo sauces for barbecued fish or meat.
Despite often leading global culinary trends, the Spanish and Catalan people are routed in tradition. New seasonal food often marks an excuse for a party and, due to the fact that Peter has many fresh items flown in from his supplier at Barcelona’s famous La Boqueria market, Lunya customers can join in too. On our visit, there was a huge box of fresh Calcots on display. This famous Catalan vegetable – somewhere between an onion and a leek - enjoys a short season between the end of January to mid March. They are best enjoyed roasted over flames with the tender insides dipped in romesco sauce. You’ll also find packs of vibrant green pardon peppers if you fancy making this gorgeous Galician snack at home.
So next time you fancy immersing yourself in the Iberican dream without taking a week off work, a browse around the shelves of Lunya’s delicatessen is pretty much the next best thing.
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