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Jasmine Restaurant Reviewed

Lucy Tomlinson find an 'Arabic' restaurant good but beige and brown

Written by . Published on March 31st 2014.


Jasmine Restaurant Reviewed
 

HOW much does a menu matter?

I’m not talking about the food itself, though clearly a lot is the answer to that one, nor the florid descriptions that make up a menu, though the response there, is not so much, but the actual physical object itself.

A decent BYOB is a great addition, nay an absolute essential, for anyone’s set of local restaurants that they like to visit for a cosy, casual dinner again and again.

My dining companion at Jasmine in Chorlton pronounced laminated menus "sad" and "really depressing". I take a different view – these humble wipe-clean bills of fare are rather endearing because they are defiantly practical, completely unstyled and charmingly artless (if being able be relied upon to contain at least one typo counts as artless). The polar opposite, in fact, of the faux-simple trend of serving cocktails in jam jars practised around these parts.

Tables and chairs on Barlow Moor Road

Tables and chairs on Barlow Moor Road

At the masthead of its menu, Jasmine defines itself as serving ‘Arabic food’. This sounds terribly unspecific (from a geopolitical as well as a culinary point of view, but hey, this isn’t Newsnight).

The decor leans towards Egyptian kitsch, making heavy use of the classic I-went-to-the-pyramids-and-all-I-got-was-this-papyrus school of art, though I didn’t spot any specifically Egyptian dishes on the menu. There is also a seriously amazing clock. Words can’t describe, you just need to see it - so no pictures, you have to go.

Interior beige with occasional pyramidical detail

Interior beige with occasional pyramidical detail

We decided to order a few starters, as well as a main course, in a nod to the usual Middle Eastern practice of sharing dishes without going for the full mezzethon. The Potato Kibbeh (£4.50) were tasty and filling boli of minced lamb and potato with a crunchy crust, while the Hummus (£3.20) was of good consistency and not too garlicky, and most importantly came with heaps of fantastic freshly baked flatbread. 

Jasmine - colourful taster dish

 

Jasmine - colourful taster dish as we sat down including a cleverly zesty red cabbage

The standout for me was the Keshkeh (£3.25), billed as ‘homemade cheese’, it has a consistency more like fermented yoghurt, served with cracked wheat and tons more of that delicious bread.

Jasmine in a rowJasmine in a rowAs for the ‘pastries’, we couldn’t decide between Za’atar (£2.60) and Lahembajeen (£3.60) as that plasticated placard of mystery declined to tell us what they were. No problems, our super-friendly waitress let us in on the secret. The first, she told us, is a Middle Eastern spice mix and the second: "very nice meat". Sold to the carnivore on the left.

At these prices we decided to live dangerously and opt for both. The ‘pastries’ turned out to be more like topped bread, or as my fellow diner put it ‘wet pizza’, but despite that lacklustre description both were actually very good. There was something a bit powdery and sweet about the za’atar which might not appeal to everyone, but taste-wise it was an interesting but not madly addictive counterpoint to the meat, paste and bread we had consumed so far.

Jasmine beige and brownJasmine beige and brownOn to the mains, and Lamb Shawarma (£8.50) is of course a Middle Eastern classic, road-tested by my fair companion. The lamb, he observed, was not too dry, the tahini good and any opportunity to eat a load of raw onions in the name of research was ok by him. All in all a pretty reasonable example of its type.

I opted for Fateh Jasmine (£8.50), as it bore the house name I reasoned it must be the chef’s own recipe. The dish is a stew of aubergine and lamb with tomatoes and onions in a tomato sauce with what our friend the menu called ‘roasted bread nuts’ (though there may have been a missing comma there and it actually contained roasted bread and nuts). Nuts or no, the little bready croutons were seriously good.

The stew was maybe a little on the sloppy side and definitely underseasoned but the aubergine was not bitter or soggy, the lamb chunks lovely and tender, and it’s not like my salting arm gets tired. Luckily I still had a bread mountain for soaking up all that extra sauce.

A similar dish is the Bamieh (£8.50), okra, lamb, tomato sauce and garlic, with the okra very present in the flavours.

Bamieh

Bamieh

It may have been a coincidence, but everything we ordered seemed to suffer from brown-food syndrome, which to be fair may have been more symptomatic of ordering for maximum carb overload on our parts. The 'Arabic salad' (£3.45), pictured at the top of the page, was lovely and at least added some colour variation.

Anyway while I don’t object to a symphony of beige in my eating habits, I thought it was time for something a little more delicate in the sweet stakes.

MuhalabiehMuhalabieh Muhalabieh (£2.45) is a milk pudding flavoured with rosewater and sprinkled with pistachios, tasting pretty much like a pannacotta doused in essence of Turkish delight. Along with a super-strong Arabic coffee it was a lovely end to what had been a satisfying if not startling meal.

Finally, a word about the drinks. Jasmine is BYOB (with no corkage charge, thankyouverymuch), so we picked up a bottle from Tiny’s Tipple, or you could also go to Carringtons across the road and ask them to recommend something to go with Levantine/Lebanese food.

While it may be a small detail to fixate upon, the lack of corkage charge and the graciousness with which the waitress immediately opened our bottle started off the evening on a good note.

A decent BYOB is a great addition, nay an absolute essential, for anyone’s set of local restaurants that they like to visit for a cosy, casual dinner again and again. The food is hearty and reliably tasty (though not as mind-blowingly good as some initial reports suggested) and this along with the friendly staff, very reasonable prices, and most importantly that clock, ensures Jasmine is sure to become a stalwart for Chorltonites.

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY CONFIDENTIAL.

Jasmine, 569 Barlow Moor Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 8AE. 0161 881 1442

Rating: 13/20 

Food: 6/10
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've got carried away.

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AnonymousMarch 31st 2014.

Is Carrington's really 'across' the road? More like a 10 minute walk down the road and back again.

David OwensApril 1st 2014.

Food in Ariana nearby is much better and is also BYOB

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