14 April 2021 by Deanna Thomas

The chef patron and creative director of Spanish restaurants El Gato Negro on King Street and the Portuguese influenced Canto in Ancoats, Simon Shaw, has revealed plans for his third Manchester restaurant. 

Habas, a modern Middle Eastern restaurant and bar is currently being fitted out on the former Panama Hatty’s site on Brown St, which takes up the lower ground floor of the beautiful Grade Two heritage building owned by Bruntwood Works. It will open this spring after inevitable delays caused by the current pandemic. Details of the design are being kept under wraps for now, although diners can expect a total transformation of the expansive space with elements of the historic building lovingly restored. 

“It will be the type of venue that I like to go to,” says Shaw, “somewhere that you can settle down for the night with great table service and music too.” 

The introduction of a regular live music programme follows the success of exclusive events hosted at Shaw’s other venues.

The restaurant will be headed up by the multi-award-winning chef patron, who will be supported by senior sous chef, Craig Rutherford. The menu will focus on Shaw’s modern interpretation of Middle Eastern dishes, influenced by the region’s rich and varied cultures, with a greater emphasis on shared dining alongside intimate dinners.

Habas will be the third restaurant from acclaimed chef Simon Shaw, joining multi-award-winning El Gato Negro (Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds), and sister restaurant Canto (Ancoats, Manchester)

“I was probably into Middle Eastern food before Spanish if I’m honest,” admits Shaw who used to run the kitchens at Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge. “It was back in ‘98 when I was living in London that I first became interested in it; going for a shawarma late at night was our thing. 

“We’d go to these incredible places on Edgware Road or in Bayswater after work, or even after we’d been out, it was quite a social thing. I remember thinking wow, what a great style of food this is; it’s amazing, so fresh and vibrant. 

“I knew then that I wanted to open a modern Middle Eastern restaurant; this isn’t a new thing, but it’s really exciting to focus on this diverse region’s many cuisines with Habas.”

Asked if the pandemic had thrown plans into question, Shaw added: “Habas has been a long time in the making. It’s been a good couple of years since we first acquired the site and commenced construction work. We hit a couple of obstacles early on, as is to be expected when renovating a heritage building, and that required us to revise our timings. And then came the pandemic. 

“It’s been tough as you’d expect, but abandoning plans for Habas was never an option, if anything it’s given us a greater appetite. We’ve had time to really develop the concept and focus on what we want it to be. We’re in a good place; I’m really excited to be entering this final stage of work and am looking forward to opening Habas later this Spring.”

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