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Armenian Taverna Review

Jonathan Schofield fills up in a comforting timewarp

Written by . Published on September 22nd 2011.

Armenian Taverna Review

I HAD a meal with George Best recently. He was black and white. There was also John Mundy, one of the Nolan sisters I think, someone very glamorous called Cassie Baker and Sam Wanamaker, the actor and filmmaker. All in black and white and all loving the Armenian Taverna. 

All in all the re-visit to the Armenian Taverna was great fun. The prices didn't break the bank and the antique design of the place provided a constant conversation point. 

After the meal I rang up the National Trust. Apparently they are moving away from their portfolio of grand stately properties in vast manicured acres and are looking to acquire more humble premises, that capture a time, a fashion and a mood: ex-Beatles' council houses for example.

I suggested they stake an early claim on the Armenian Taverna when the present goodly owners decide to call it a day.

The menu claims the basement Albert Square restaurant opened in 1968. The evidence from the decor backs this up. It has all the crazed charm of a grandparent's chintzy front room, a mix and unmatch of trinkets, pots, pictures and wall coverings so old fashioned they've gone from being contemporary and delightful through to being naff and ridiculous and ended up amusing and appealing.

The two dimensional traditional Armenian dancers' mural with Mount Ararat in the distance is so badly drawn but done with such enthusiasm you can't help but smile. On our visit we reckoned we found the gay one. And the boss one. 

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The black and white pictures of the 'stars' - I can barely remember BBC local newsman John Mundy - complete with endorsements for the Armenian Taverna are like a echo down the ages of San Carlo's present fame galleries. Did Carlo nick the idea from here?

The whole place makes you grin.

The food makes me full.

This is lamb-based fare from the Near East, as it used to be called, before people got confused and started calling it the Middle East. I'm not au fait with Armenian food and its traditions strangely enough but it appears similar to Syrian, Persian and Turkish grub.

The dishes here though don't carry the subtlety of Persian food.

The Armenian Taverna's take on goulash (£12) for instance, is massive and looks like an explosion in a paint factory dominated by brown hues.

The lamb is marinated for two days, apparently, and then slow cooked for six or seven hours. There's red wine in there, bay leaves, thyme, cloves, split peas, barley, the kitchen sink, frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails. Maybe even sugar and spice and all things nice.

The combination is a great onslaught of flavour and food with a lovely bubble of rice as well. Winter's coming folks. If you need bolstering, this is your boy.

The Madznov kebab (£10.50) was similar in scale. But this time it came with spiced minted lamb with yoghurt, pitta bread and a fried egg on top. It also looked a mess, in fact radioactive, and was as vast and wholesome as the goulash but compromised by an egg that wasn't runny enough. 

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Decent sides such as an oily black olive topped hummous (£4) helped things along as did a bottle of an aggressive Chateauneuf du Pape (£26).

The only disappointment was a Kunafeh (£3.50), which should have been light and rich and sweet with walnuts, syrup, almonds and spices under a shredded pastry cover. The problem was that the shredded bit was dryer than Les Dawson's sense of humour - I think I saw his picture at the back of the room. The Armenian needs to be more careful with this dessert, which really was a desert.

Still, all in all the re-visit to the Armenian Taverna was great fun. The prices didn't break the bank and the antique design of the place provided a constant conversation point. There's a good range of fish and veggie dishes as well.

If you've not been since before the Berlin Wall came down, or before Manchester made any Olympic bids, then try it again. The aesthetics of the food won't appeal but the decor, flavours and scale might. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

The Armenian Taverna
Victoria Buildings
1-7 Princess Street, City
0161 834 9025

Rating: 13/20
Food: 6/10
Service: 3/5
Atmosphere: 4/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

SmittySeptember 22nd 2011.

Great review, great restaurant. Those who haven't been since before the Berlin Wall fell down can be reassured by this review that it hasn't changed a bit. So glad it's still open (wasn't there talk of it closing not too long ago?). We went for a pal's birthday a few months ago during MIF. Afterwards we went to the festival tent. The juxtaposition between the two places was as delicious as the food!

paulSeptember 22nd 2011.

Rating: 13/20
Food: 6/5
Service: 3/5
Atmosphere: 4/5

Six out of five is good Have Michelin been informed

AnonymousSeptember 22nd 2011.

is it 13/15 or 13/20??

Jonathan Isaac Newton SchofieldSeptember 22nd 2011.

Let me tell you how we arrived at the score. I took the average amount of figs produced in Algeria and divided it by Carlos Tevez's wages and Hernandez's smiles, adding into the mix the square root of the value of the amount of bratwurst sold in the Albert Square markets in December. Then I put the wrong number down after the food rating and have subsequently changed it, for which I'd like to thank you all. And now let us gird up our loins, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war without recourse to rancour or recrimination.

paulSeptember 22nd 2011.

Dose that mean you dropped a bollock

Gordon GSeptember 22nd 2011.


AnonymousSeptember 22nd 2011.

number one of my top 5

AnonymousSeptember 22nd 2011.

love the armenian. so glad its still there. reminds me of childhood and the empire grill. great review.

TropsicalSeptember 23rd 2011.

Funny place, but I like it.

GManSeptember 23rd 2011.

Glad that the place has survived

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