Habas restaurant review: “There’s something on the menu everyone can relate to”

Habas, who scooped a This is Manchester Award last week have revealed their new menu - and we went down to try it out
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Tucked in the catacombs of Deansgate sits Habas, a Middle Eastern Restaurant and bar.

Down a narrow, unassuming staircase you are met with a well stocked bar, then to the right the space opens up into a cavernous restaurant.

The open kitchen lines the left hand side of the wall, with the other walls are adorned with a bit of, well, everything.

In 2021, Habas was awarded a place on the Michelin Guide, so the restaurant comes with pedigree, despite a difficult opening period during covid.

And now, they are currently celebrating scooping Leading Newcomer in Hospitality at last week’s This is Manchester awards.

So we went down to review their new menu, and spoke to head chef Craig Rutherford about their success and his vision for the new menu.

Talking about the struggles of opening during the Covid Pandemic, Craig said: “Opening when we did wasn’t easy.

“It saw some long hours, but we got there eventually and to see that great work recognised here in Manchester, and in such great company.

“It has taken a long time for us to get to a point where we thought we’d be nominated, never mind win.

“I’m blown away really.”

Habas have launched their Winter menu, featuring large sharing platters and mains, with a smattering of vegan and vegetarian options hoping to keep everyone happy (and full) as the cold weather closes in.

To start, you could try the Meze platter which includes: Harrisa spiced nuts, mixed olives and pickles, baba ghanoush, Habas hummus, whipped labneh, marinated artichokes with onions, toasted lavash bread. And breathe. (£14, (V)).

The sharing platters look ginormous, and include: Chargrilled beef fillet, merguez sausage, Barnsley chops, harissa chicken skewer, braised rice and roasted vegetables (£45). They do a vegetarian option too which comprises of: Harissa roasted squash, chargrilled aubergine, sweetcorn falafel, batata harra, braised rice, roasted sweet peppers and zhug dressing (£30).

We spoke to Craig about the new menu and what he thinks of it.

Craig said: “The menu is an accumulation of 18 months of work. We’re really excited about it. Usually with a new menu you feel some dishes are going to be a bit stronger than others, but with this one I think they are all hard hitters.

“It’s a really nice ‘well-balanced’ menu with something for everyone.

“My personal favourites are the beef feather blade, which is fragrant and fresh, with a lot of familiar spices and some surprises in there too.

“I also really love the aubergine dish. We’ve knocked it about a few times in various iterations but we think we’ve absolutely nailed it this time. It’s vegan, gluten free, soya free, sulphide free – it caters to pretty much everyone with allergy or dietary requirements.

“It also tastes great!”

At the restaurant last week I took the Head chef’s advice and opted for the beautifully presented beef featherblade, a curried beef shoulder with harrisa roasted squash and onion and almond picada (£20) with a side of carrots (£5) and batata harra (£6.50).

Thoroughly enjoyable and the harrisa roasted squash was wonderful. The beef fell apart at the slightest touch and the almond picada augmented the flavours without being overbearing.

Craig said that one of the challenges putting together the menu was making food from a different part of the world accessible.

Craig said: “I think what makes us unique is that our food isn’t exactly traditional. We never claim to be authentic; we only give a nod to the fantastic traditional dishes from the Middle East.

“I’m not from the Middle East, but me and the team have done extensive research on the flavours, however we have to make it approachable for the people of Manchester.

“We know what people in the city like to eat, and the sort of flavours and levels of spices we can use. I think if we were fully traditional we might blow some people away!

“I think it’s the way we approach it – we take something authentic and inspired by that part of the world and we make it accessible and our own with a unique twist.

The menu also features stone cold classics with Chicken tagine: Chicken and vegetable tagine, preserved lemon and olive dressing (£18) and Chicken shawarma kebab with Harissa and honey chicken shawarma, homemade pitta and pickled red cabbage (£18).

Along with the Aubergine for vegetarians Habas serves a halloumi and mushroom kebab (v) Crispy fried halloumi, roasted mushrooms, homemade pitta, turmeric yoghurt, pickled cucumber (£16)

If you’re still feeling full after mains, you can enjoy a Medjool date and orange cake, salted caramel ice cream (£7), or a warm winter berry babka, homemade biscoff cream (£6.50) or maybe even fig and almond slice, pistachio ice cream (£6).

Habas is a stylish modern restaurant with interesting takes on Middle Eastern Classics. It is no surprise that it has received an award, as they know their audience and do what they do very well.

I asked Craig to try and pitch Habas to people who may not have tried Middle Eastern food before.

He said: “Honestly, just give it a try. The flavours are amazing and I think many of them you will find familiar.

“For example, the lamb kebab – that’s our best seller. It’s a classic packed with loads of interesting flavours from ginger, garlic, cumin with a gorgeous tahini.

“It’s all fresh, we marinate the lamb for 48 hours and cook the pittas from scratch.

“There’s something on our menu everyone can relate to. We reckon there are similar options out there, just that ours is the best in the city!”

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