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Hadramout Restaurant, Rusholme, Reviewed

Rakhi Sinha tries the Y in Manchester's A-Z of food dining: Yemeni grub

Published on April 9th 2012.

Hadramout Restaurant, Rusholme, Reviewed

HADRAMOUT, Manchester’s only Yemeni restaurant, is just off the main strip in Rusholme. It came recommended by a group of Arabic students living in the city - it’s their Old Faithful and where they go when they want a hit of home.

First off, mandi chicken (£5), the traditional dish of the Yemeni peninsula, cooked slowly, suspended over dry wood in a tandoor. It sounded mouthwatering. But in reality it was mouth-drying. 

Personally, I tend to avoid Rusholme restaurants as I’m not impressed with the offerings on the garish neon strip. At one time the Punjab was a favourite, serving up delicious dosas and South Indian food, sadly the last few times I’ve been it hasn’t been up to scratch.

But intrigued by the thought of Yemeni food, a friend and I embarked on a trip to the Curry Mile to see what all the fuss of Hadramout was about.

“Try the lamb kabsah and mandi chicken,” the students had told me, both traditional Yemeni dishes, “and you must go upstairs and sit on the floor.”

So once we’d located the restaurant down a side street, and entered into the brightly-lit fast food joint with a few tables at which to scoff your food, we ordered their suggestions, plus a couple of starters, and headed up a narrow staircase.

The upstairs dining area is basically like someone’s living room but without a telly and with a really plush, dense carpet instead of wooden flooring. Around the sides, against the walls are cushions to sit on and there are alcoves with shelves adorned with ornaments. Hanging from the ceiling are Moroccan style lanterns and curtains to separate the dining area into individual, private sections and there are a couple of tables if you can’t manage sitting on the floor.

Curtains and enclosureCurtains and enclosure

We slipped of our shoes, brushed aside the remnants of the last meal and sat on the cushions as the waiter placed a plastic spread down in front of us. It was really odd to be sitting cross-legged surrounded by a curtain not being able to see other diners, but still able to hear them munching away and speaking in Arabic.

It was shaping up to be a very unusual dining experience, and the authenticity didn’t end with the décor and setting. I nipped to the loo before the food arrived and discovered that rather than toilet roll, there was a hose for washing - Asian style. Don’t forget to put your shoes on before you go in, as I nearly did.

Despite ordering starters, all the dishes arrived at the same time and what we hadn’t realised, or been told, was that each starter comes with a huge, round naan bread. So we had three starters, each with bread, two main dishes piled high with meat and rice, and a slab of Yemeni bread on the side. You get the picture - the amount of food for the two of us was ridiculous and massively over-facing. I felt defeated before I even began.

Of the all dishes, the appetisers were the most appetising. The ful medames (£3), made from fava beans, was rich with parsley, onion and garlic. Traditionally eaten for breakfast, the hearty bean dip had a smoky aftertaste and was delicious mopped up with the naan bread.  

The tabouleh (£1.50) was palate-cleansing and refreshing with its lemony, minty and herby flavours. Strangely there was no bulgar wheat in it as there usually is, but I wasn’t complaining, we had enough food and I was glad of one less thing to have to get through.

Another breakfast speciality, the shakshukah (£3), was good but not as I expected. Made with eggs, coriander, tomato, onion, a little chilli and a lot of salt, it was more like a scrambled omelette than the poached eggs in spiced tomato sauce I thought it was going to be. It was good all the same, but nothing special.

My favourite thing was the Yemeni tawah bread (£1.50). Similar to an Indian paratha - thick, flaky dough smeared with salty, buttery ghee - it was greasy but nice eaten on its own or to mop up the starters. It was the only thing that got polished off completely and I’d happily go back for more.

On to the mains, the magical dishes that I’d heard so much about.

My tastebuds were tingling at the thought of the succulent flavoursome meat dishes to come. First off, mandi chicken (£5), the traditional dish of the Yemeni peninsula, cooked slowly, suspended over dry wood in a tandoor. It sounded mouthwatering.

But in reality it was mouth-drying.

The meat was so dehydrated I had to swallow it down with huge gulps of water (btw, the restaurant is also dry - as in no booze), and I couldn’t taste anything of the spices that the chicken was supposed to be marinated in. It had none of the cumin, clove or ginger notes and was a jaundiced shade of yellow. After a few mouthfuls I gave up.

I hoped the lamb kabsah (£6) was better, but alas, it was totally flavourless just like the mundane mandi. The meat, though not as dry as the chicken, was a rubbery texture and too fatty for my liking. I was really disappointed as I thought about the students eagerly waiting to question me about the meal.

Big menuBig menu

To be fair to the mains, the rice on which the bland meat sat was stellar. It was moist and had been cooked with cinnamon, cloves and other spices. It had a grilled onion aftertaste and had I not filled up on the bread, I would have enjoyed it more. But as the star was supposed to be the meat, they just weren’t yum-eni enough and definitely not worth the trip.

Hadramout is an authentic, albeit odd, experience. Stick with the starters and side dishes and eat them mezze style and the food’s good. Also, take a few very hungry friends along with you, the food, which is incredibly cheap, goes a long way and the novelty of the Arabic style dining experience is entertaining.

Dinner for two (with enough food for four) cost £22.90.

You can follow Rakhi Sinha on Twitter here @Rakhi_Sinha


Hadramout, Unit 1  Walmer Street East, Rusholme, M14 5SS, 0161 248 8843

Rating: 12/20
Food: 5/10
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 3/5

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, we get carried away.

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

BenApril 9th 2012.

Thanks. It may not have been a perfect meal but I'm glad Confidential is making an effort to publicise Manchester's diverse food offerings.

HelenApril 9th 2012.

Reading about an upper-room that felt like walking into someone's house reminded me - pleasantly! - of an evening's dining in Habesha on Sackville Street. Ethiopian food turns out to be <divine> and very cheap -- though I've never felt so pale in my life! There are some real gems of 'unusual' international cuisine about Manchester!

ChairsApril 10th 2012.

The problem with genuine places is that are so genuine they haven't moderated themselves for any other audience. In fact the Western middle class pursuit of the 'genuine' is a form of conceit that twists enthusiasm for other cultures into a condescending spectator show

1 Response: Reply To This...
HelenApril 10th 2012.

I think you could say that about any dining-out (an indeed dining-in) experience: it <is> a performance, of sorts, and a transaction that blurs the line between necessity and indulgence, nurture and servitude. And I agree that it isn't always pulled off without awkwardness. Best example in Manchester (that I know of): the poor fella outside East Z East on Blackfriars.

Voice of the Ironing BroadApril 10th 2012.

Went there. Loved it. Loved stepping into a different world. Especially as upstairs came as a complete suprise. We asked the waiter to bring us what was good and he did, and it was. And at 15.00 for a three course meal for two - who is complaing. Loved the lime sherbert although a bit too much sugar in in for me.

ZbibizApril 10th 2012.

It's proper traditional in Persian-y/North African type cultures to sit on the floor on a plastic mat to eat - my family always did until the kids grew up and bought the parents a dining table...
Like the sound of all this bread though, and a decent ful medames..mmm smokeyyy

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