Habas Bar & Restaurant, 43A Brown St, Manchester, M2 2JJ – Visit Now
It’s fair to say Habas Bar & Restaurant is one of the most eagerly-anticipated restaurants to come to Manchester in 2021. Apparently it’s been on the cards for a while now, with owner-chef Simon Shaw (of El Gato Negro fame) revealing they bought this space around three years ago, after Panama Hatty’s vacated the premises. It’s certainly a striking looking space, vast and decked out with all kinds of trinkets and fittings picked up by Simon and his team over the years.
The theme is Middle Eastern cuisine, with the aim to put their own stamp on this endlessly inventive type of food, just as they did with tapas in their smash-hit King Street restaurant, which now has offshoots in Liverpool and elsewhere around the country. Today we’re here for a preview of what’s about to come, which means plate after plate of piping hot food. Rather than explain each item in turn, it feels best to pick out some of the standout items.
The first thing to note is vegetarians and vegans are very well catered for, with over three quarters of the dishes sampled falling into these camps. The mezze platter is a wonderful place to begin. A colourful, exciting plate overflowing with all kinds of superbly-made dishes. You can expect two kinds of hummus, including a gloriously pink beetroot iteration, whipped labneh, a pitch-perfect baba ganoush, spiced nuts, olives, pickles and an array of freshly-made breads. It’s all impressively light, fresh and packed with powerful flavours.
The filo cigars warrant a special mention. Two long, crispy tubes packed with feta cheese, spinach and sunblush tomato, piping hot and served with a gloriously rich red pepper relish. The monkfish tail is another winner, similar to the one celebrated at nearby King Street restaurant Kala, but served with a more memorable depth of flavour here, courtesy of the multi-layered tomato and tamarind sauce.
There’s also a sweet potato, slowly roasted and piled high with all kinds of taste-appropriate creamy sauce and lightly cooked vegetables. It’s an absolute must-try, along with the bulgur wheat salad which arrives dotted with delicious caramelised cauliflower pieces and god’s own garnish, pomegranate seeds. Meat-eaters should make a beeline for the chicken schnitzel. It’s the softest, most moreish piece of chicken I’ve tried in a long time, taken to new heights thanks to the chilli and lime butter.
And it’d be remiss of me not to mention the chocolate babka ‘Fresh toast’ with coconut ice cream, which serves as the ultimate full-stop to a seemingly endless meal. There are many, many other dishes on offer, all cooked to the same high standards you’d expect from Simon Shaw and his expert team.
This area of the city is rapidly earning a reputation as a food-lover’s paradise, thanks to recent additions such as Tom Kerridge’s The Bull & Bear Restaurant. Habas is a well-deserved addition to the fold.