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Tavern tales

Manchester’s Armenian Taverna is a blink-and-you-miss-it underground restaurant that’s been popular with the city’s diners since 1968. They must be doing something right…

Published on January 6th 2011.

Tavern tales

Armenian food isn’t exactly something that you hanker after. ‘What’ll it be tonight darling? Chinese? Italian? Armenian?’ It just doesn’t happen. In fact, prior to last Friday night, I couldn’t even tell you what Armenian food was like if I was walking down a street in Armenia and an Armenian person threw some at me.

Manchester’s one and only Armenian Taverna is located slap bang in the middle of town, with a modest entrance on Albert Square that takes diners downstairs to the underground restaurant.

Now forget the Panaceas, the Lounge Tens and the Room Restaurants of the world. If you want swanky food and swankier surroundings, keep on walking. The Armenian Taverna is refreshingly unpolished for a city centre restaurant. But looking around, it’s seeped in character, from the charmingly atrocious murals painted on the walls, to the signed photographs of famous past visitors, which cover a range of faces from George Best to Elvis Presley.

We were seated at a table in the centre of the busy restaurant by the extremely affable maitre d’, who brought to mind our favourite waiter in Bodrum last summer. ‘You like nice table by the water? Ah, pretty lady, we have a table just for you’. In fact, this place is probably evocative of holiday memories for most of us, and makes a lovely retreat from the wet and windy streets above.

To drink, we chose a bottle of white Villa Doluca (£13.50) – a fruity dry Turkish wine that tasted of sunshine and sea views.

The food menu is confusing for anyone unfamiliar with Armenian cuisine. Each dish is well explained with a short description, but there are just so many options that it all feels a little overwhelming for the uninitiated.

Thankfully The Armenian Taverna caters to the novice with an Armenian banquet (£15.50 per head), which includes a good selection of starters and mains and is a perfect introduction to Armenian food.

The starters came on one plate, with a selection of dips including hummus, taramasalata, and mutabul – all wonderfully spiced, garlicky pastes based on hummus, fish roe and aubergine. Served with the dips was a portion of the wonderfully named Chef’s Lavish Bread – deliciously sweet flat bread baked on charcoal – as well as falafel, spicy lamb meatballs (kufta), spicy sausage (yesrshig), and binirow borek – fried savoury pastries filled with cheese, parsley, nutmeg and egg. Traditional Armenian salads accompanied.

For the main course our delightful waiter presented us with a selection of mixed kebab including chicken, two types of lamb and pork, as well as a skewer of grilled onions, peppers and tomatoes. This was all served with rice, and a very generous helping of a tomato based spicy sauce – always a good thing in my book.

The banquet didn’t include any dessert, which would have been handy to cleanse the palate after so much garlic, but we did get coffee and a bowl of Armenian Delight – the Armenian Taverna’s home made take on Turkish Delight.

I can only assume by the wide berth that we were given in Mojo afterwards though, that the Armenian Delight didn’t really go far enough to conceal the strong whiff of garlic, herbs and spices that surrounded us. But, at least we had enough space on the dancefloor.

It’s actually difficult to believe that such an unassuming, charmingly dated and well concealed restaurant should thrive in Manchester City Centre – especially with a three course meal for two including wine setting us back a mere £46.

But the food, the service, and even the décor (which could very easily have never been refurbished since the Taverna opened in 1968), all make this a stand out restaurant, and a perfect place for a laid back, enjoyable dinner.

Jayne Robinson

The Armenian Tavern
3/5 Princess Street
M2 4DF

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

Steve & MagsFebruary 14th 2007.

The Armenian Taverna is in my opinion one of the most UNDER RATED restaurants in Manchester. The food is delicious and service is second to none. We have been using this restaurant for 20 years and even though we have now moved to the north east we still make the Armenian our 1st port of call whenever we are in the city. So Kenny you are talking a load of rubbish. You probably prefer somwhere like MacDonalds!!

deborahFebruary 14th 2007.

kenny is mad its fab food he must eat in kentucky

scoteeeFebruary 14th 2007.

hahahaha who killed kenny!?

DavidbFebruary 14th 2007.

First Class family owned and run restaurant serving excellent home made food, wine and range of Vodka's. Regarding the decor its exactly right, the point is its supposed to represent Armenia not a pseudo plastic and stainless creation selling heaven knows what from heavens knows where. If your looking for excellent food, drink and service at a bargain price you can't go wrong. I've been eating there for over 25yrs, introduced numerous colleagues and friends and have never had or heard a single complaint.

NortherngeezerFebruary 5th 2010.

Just a quick update............ i've eaten here many times over the years, been again tonight, had the banquet and as usual, it was fantastic............if it aint broke, dont fix it.

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2012.

My first stop for a meal out in Manchester! Love this one off original place, the decor makes it!

AnonymousJanuary 15th 2012.

"Signed photographs of famous past visitors, which cover a range of faces from George Best to Elvis Presley" Elvis?? You sure?? Never visited England.

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"Signed photographs of famous past visitors, which cover a range of faces from George Best to Elvis…

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My first stop for a meal out in Manchester! Love this one off original place, the decor makes it!

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Glad that the place has survived

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Funny place, but I like it.

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