Jasmine Grill is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
It may be tucked away on a side street in Manchester’s Gay Village but, once you’ve tasted the food there, trust me when I say it’s the sort of restaurant you’ll want to seek out again and again.
Once inside the venue, you are ushered upstairs where a bar area leads through to the main dining space – with fabulous green booth seating on one side, and cream bistro style tables and chairs to the other.
Up another flight of stairs is a similarly stylish private dining room with statement chandelier. The venue is also sympathetic to the warehouse origins of the building with exposed brickwork and original metal fixtures and piping.
The menu is centred around Lebanese and Turkish cuisine with a casserole and grill section. But there are also dishes, including a full pizza and burger offering, which make it more of a more fusion menu catering to a wider range of customers.
The restaurant is anchored by head chef Alex Alsahli, whose talent for the cuisine of his homeland really shines through. Having relaunched the restaurant this summer with a new look and new name (it was formerly Jasmine), fans will be pleased to hear the food is just as lip-smackingly good thanks to the Alex’s continued presence in the kitchen.
We start our epic Levantine feast with a mezze of dips (£10.95 for six) and a fattoush – a traditional Middle Eastern salad packed with pomegranate and chunks of fried crispy bread (£4.25) – which makes it entirely my kind of salad.
The dips come served in attractive swirls on a large round platter dish, served with a basket of warm fresh pitta breads to swipe into the fresh, creamy selection on offer.
This is where the true joy of a restaurant like Jasmine Grill comes into its own – you can tell all of these dips have been freshly crushed into submission in the open kitchen below, thanks to the wealth of flavours in each and every one.
A rich and creamy hummus, spicy muhammara, herby yoghurt dip labneh and a classic aubergine baba ghanoush. All three of us dining agree that they are among the best fresh dips we’ve ever tasted.
For mains we are tempted by the traditional Lebanese dishes in the casseroles section. We try a bamieh (£11.95), the Jasmine fatteh (£12.95) as well as a traditional Turkish kebab from the grill (£14.95) and agree we’ll all share – an agreement we’re pretty pleased about when the dishes arrive.
The bamieh, a sweet okra and tomato curry-type dish, can be served with or without lamb and is bursting with fresh flavours. The house fatteh was something of a triumph – a richly layered casserole of lamb, aubergine, tomato and pomegranate seeds topped with white sauce and the classic crispy squares of flatbread that is a signature of Levantine cuisine. The mix of textures and flavours made it a hearty dish that we were all fighting over across the table.
The Turkish kebab arrives as a hefty portion of skewered meats – chicken, kofta, shish and cheesy chicken, scattered with herbs and with a little jug of chilli and cream layered sauces. The meats, without exception, are dreamily moist and flavoursome. The secret? Chef Alex confides that he marinates all his meats in his own top secret mix of fresh FRUITS to achieve that rich and flavoursome flesh.
Our meal is completed with a couple of the venue’s daily changing desserts which come theatrically presented on large plates. We have the cheesecake of the day served with strawberry and a web of chocolate, and a trio of the house baklava – the honeyed filo and nuts making a mouth-watering crunch of flavours. The perfect conclusion to a near-perfect meal.
Manchester is a city that boasts some amazing fine dining restaurants, with Michelin Star hopes high this year for some of the most celebrated venues. But sometimes, you just want to go to a venue where you know you are going to get a really good, hearty, home-cooked feed. And that’s what Jasmine Grill has nailed here.
Let’s put it this way. I enjoyed everything so much that I went back a week later to relive that kebab and fatteh all over again.
StreetCars House, 5 Richmond Street, Manchester, M1 3HF.