Simon Shaw’s new Middle Eastern restaurant is now open – what’s it like?

Located in the former wine cellar of the historic Manchester Club building, new restaurant Habas has been a real labour of love
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Acclaimed chef and restaurateur Simon Shaw, the man behind city centre favourites El Gato Negro and Canto, has today opened his much-anticipated third restaurant, Habas.

Located in the former wine cellar of the historic Manchester Club building, the restaurant has been a real labour of love, inspired by Simon’s travels to the Middle East.

So what’s the new 200-cover restaurant and bar like? 

A heavy wooden door, surrounded by vintage books and ceramics, awaits guests, and opens into the bar from where an impressive selection of cocktails inspired by the Middle East can be enjoyed alongside beer from Beirut and wines from Hungary and Lebanon. 

A wide selection of classic cocktails, spirits and wines from across Europe are also available.    

To the right the large airy restaurant unfolds, with a huge open kitchen taking centre stage. 

The space sees a mix of industrial, rustic, heritage and Middle Eastern furnishings blending together. 

Street level windows flood the space with natural light during the day and provide a glimpse of the city’s action by night. 

Atmospheric lighting provides a warm glow throughout, with candles adorning every table. 

The versatile space, consisting of high tables, low tables, booths and long benches, caters for every dining requirement, from dinner for two to parties of sixty.

Moving back through the central bar, a destination in its own right and where those looking for a drink are readily welcomed, is the restaurant’s lounge providing further seating for sixty. 

In here, deep comfy sofas and armchairs await guests, set against a backdrop of exposed heritage brickwork and a wall bursting full of nick-nacks, sourced from across the Middle East and a range of reclamation centres (one of Simon’s favourite pastimes is scouring vintage finds).  

For those determined to stay for just the one drink, high bar stools seated around heavy wooden barrels align the wall. 

A raised area and incredible sound system provide the platform for Simon’s plans to introduce live music in due course.

A private dining room with seating for ten has heavy drapes for privacy if required or the option for diners to enjoy the surrounding action.  

“I always knew we’d acquired a great space,” says Simon.

“It’s everything I like about buildings, it’s old, it’s quirky, it’s got lots of different facets to it. 

“When it was empty it was amazing but once we started to put the furniture in, and the bits I’ve been collecting these last four or five years, it ticked every box. 

“It’s reminiscent of some of the influences from Tel Aviv that I saw. It’s everything I expected and more.”

The restaurant’s menu has been a real labour of love and features over forty dishes, all inspired by Simon’s reading and travels to the Middle East and created from scratch over the last four months.

It’s a menu the chef is extremely proud of and different to anything he’s ever done before, with exception to a couple of dishes that he says, “were always waiting in the wings.”

Split into six sections – mezze, seafood, meat, vegetables and grains, desserts, and sweets – it’s a menu that caters well for vegetarians, vegans, and fish and meat lovers alike.  

Prices start from £1 for the homemade pitta bread through to £13.50 for the meaty chargrilled monkfish fillet, served with tomato and tamarind sauce and tahini yoghurt dressing. 

Topping the list of Simon’s personal favourites is the filo cigars stuffed with feta cheese, wilted spinach and sun blush tomato with red pepper relish (V) £8.50 – crisp and golden, but be warned the filling is extremely hot.

Additional signature dishes include the spiced lamb ‘jackets’ – fried potato skins filled with spiced lamb and mint yoghurt (£8.50); spiced aubergine served with lavosh bread, tahini yoghurt and chermoula (vg) £8; and our favourite so far, chicken schnitzel served with chilli and lime butter £11.

A selection of vegetable and grains dishes include Syrian lentils (vg) served with yoghurt and zhug; batata harra (v) – spicy fried potatoes with dill sour cream; and a fresh, crunchy Middle Eastern raw slaw (vg) with moscatel dressing £5.50.

Desserts and sweet treats include Turkish delight cheesecake £6.50; chocolate babka ‘French toast’ and coconut ice cream (v) £6.50; and frangipane fig tart (v) £4.

A lunch offer, providing guests with three dishes from a select menu (one bread, one meat / fish / dairy, and one vegetable or grains) is available from 12pm to 5pm every Wednesday to Friday for £15pp. A drink can be added for a further £2.50. 

Habas, 43a Brown Street, opens on Thursday 3rd June and will operate on a five-day week initially – 12pm to 2am every Wednesday to Sunday (last food orders are 10pm). To book a table visit habas.co.uk.

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