Ahead of opening its doors to the public on Thursday (June 3), acclaimed chef Simon Shaw has offered a first look at his brand-new venue Habas.
Located in the former wine cellar of the historic Manchester Club building, the lower ground floor restaurant and bar combines Grade II heritage features with furnishings sourced from the Middle East. Shaw wanted to create the type of place that he likes to go to and reckons Habas has superseded all of his expectations.
The 200-cover restaurant and bar is accessed down a short flight of stairs - with a suspended neon logo to confirm that you’re in the right place.
A heavy wooden door, surrounded by vintage books and ceramics, opens into the bar from where a selection of cocktails inspired by the Middle East can be enjoyed. Beer from Beirut and wines from Hungary and Lebanon are also available along with a wide selection of classic cocktails, premium spirits and popular wines from across Europe.
The central bar is a destination in itself, with deep sofas and armchairs or high bar stools around heavy wooden barrels set against a backdrop of exposed heritage brickwork and nick-nacks sourced from across the Middle East and various reclamation centres.
A raised area and incredible sound system provide the platform for plans to introduce live music in due course.
To the right, a huge open kitchen taking centre stage of the large airy restaurant. The space blends together industrial, rustic, heritage and opulent Middle Eastern furnishings. High and low tables, booths and long benches cater for a variety of dining requirements from a dinner for two to parties of up to sixty. There’s also a beautiful private dining room with seating for ten.
There is a mix of textures from the building’s exposed brickwork and restored terracotta floor tiles to smooth chocolate polished walls and heavy wooden furniture. Furnishings including large Persian rugs and woven cushions, that top velvet and leather seats in rich jewel tones and candles adorn every table providing a warm glow throughout.
The restaurant’s menu has been a real labour of love and features over forty dishes, all inspired by Shaw’s reading and travels to the Middle East.
Split into six sections – mezze, seafood, meat, vegetables and grains, desserts, and sweets, it's an inclusive menu that caters well for vegetarians, vegans, and fish and meat lovers.
Prices start from just £1 for homemade pitta bread to £13.50 for chargrilled monkfish fillet with tomato and tamarind sauce, and tahini yoghurt dressing. Topping the list of Shaw’s personal favourites is the filo cigars stuffed with feta cheese, wilted spinach and sun blush tomato with red pepper relish (V) £8.50.
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 chicken schnitzel served with chilli and lime butter £11.
A generous selection of vegetable and grains dishes provide both the perfect complement and work well on their own and include Syrian lentils (vg) served with yoghurt and zhug; batata harra (v) – spicy fried potatoes with dill sour cream; and 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 includes three dishes from a select menu, available from 12pm - 5pm, Wednesday to Friday at £15pp. Add a drink for a further £2.50.
“I always knew we’d acquired a great space,” said Shaw, speaking ahead of the opening. “It’s everything I like about buildings, it’s old, it's quirky, it’s got lots of different facets to it. Once we started to put the furniture in, and the bits I’ve been collecting these last four / five years, it ticked every box. It’s everything I expected and more.”
Habas opens to the public on Thursday June 3 and will operate a five-day week initially - 12pm to 2am every Wednesday to Sunday (last food orders 10pm).
Habas, 43a Brown St, Manchester