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Nectar restaurant review

Ruth Allan takes her son and doesn’t meze about

Published on February 9th 2011.

Nectar restaurant review

Nectar has been open for about three months now, and the reception to the new Middle-Eastern restaurant has been positive so far - even if a few have pointed out that the atmosphere is a bit chilly.

Yes, the cosy factor needs turning up a bit but the main dishes are the best I’ve tried of their kind. Cooking for a king, in surrounds that need a bit of work - and did I mention that it's BYO too?

Walls are white and the window that stretches across the front of the building exudes take-out vibes. Basically, it doesn’t feel quite like a ‘restaurant’ just yet, but hopefully it will soon, because the food is down-right marvellous, its shine dampened just a little by the vet’s waiting room decor.

Fariss and Nikki Hadi make up the husband and wife team behind the tasty venture. The menu runs to nearly 50 items inspired by the dishes of Lebanon, Syria and head chef Fariss’s native Iraq.

There are eight cold mezze, 17 hot ones, mains such as kebabs and a bounty of fresh, crisp salads with rice, flatbreads, sides and more. Advice like ‘share between four with approximately four other small plates’ wouldn’t go amiss on the menu, because it’s difficult to gauge how much you’re going to want to eat – especially if you are a greedy guts like me.

However, if you’ve eaten at Petra on Upper Brook Street, Aladdin in Withington or The Cedar Tree in the Northern Quarter all of which do similar, casual fare, you’ll know that three dishes per person is a sensible place to start.

It was the bitter end of a winter afternoon when I arrived with son Arthur and his dad Mark in tow.

We were the only diners in the restaurant but a warm welcome made up for the lack of other heads. Bubbly front-of-house Nikki didn’t stop smiling for two hours. She sat us by the radiator explaining that the restaurant was proving hard to heat.

She wasn’t wrong there, so I ordered what I hoped would be a warming spread. I thought that baked, mushed aubergine with tahini, garlic, yoghurt and pita (moutabal), as well as stuffed vine leaves (warak enab), yoghurt (labneh), small, spicy lamb sausages (sujok), ful madames, a selection of kebabs (mashawi) and some rice should do it.

Ful madames arrived first. This dish hardly needs an introduction, being a British favourite comprised of juicy broad beans tossed in lemon, garlic, fresh tomato and onions. It lived up to its foxy moniker at Nectar and attention to detail was extraordinary across the board. Even the yoghurt had been flattened, laced with oil, and topped with fresh parsley and rings of paprika.

The kebab platter was a veritable mosaic comprised of three lines of perfectly-cooked meat. The chicken kebab (taouq) dunked in yoghurt and seared over charcoal had a dense, smoky flavour while the lamb shish kebab (lahem meshwi) was tender, milky and mild, illustrating a careful balance of meatiness to marinade. A strip of minced lamb, meanwhile, was flawlessly textured and spiced, compressed to lip-smacking burger-fection.

Dishes arrived one at a time and before I knew it, I’d got seven different orders on one small fork. I loved the way the flavours melded together and Arthur was on board too.

“Can we come back?” he said, as he powered through an adult portion of rice laced with vermicelli, several kebabs, pitta breads, vine leaves and yoghurt. Middle Eastern food encourages you to pitch in, eat what you like – an ideal situation for a hungry lad of six, it seems. He got to make his own choices about what to eat, and, with high quality food on the table, for once I didn’t mind at all.

The young man had strawberry ice cream for dessert (more flavouring than real fruit I suspect) and I nearly didn’t have anything at all after Nikki tried to put me off a Lebanese cheese dessert called kanafi. “It’s just so cheesy and salty and……urrrrrgh” she said.

I must say I wouldn’t advise customers to try the kanafi either, but the combination of sweet, honey-soaked pastry, pistachios and melting cheese was the kind of calorie hit one craves after marathon training, perhaps, or an afternoon in a big shopping mall.

I got chatting to Nikki before we left and she told me a bit about the restaurant’s background. She and Fariss ran Babylon takeaway on Oxford Road for 25 years - an achievement worthy of royal recognition in itself - and with the kids finally grown up or at school, the couple decided to follow their dream of opening a ‘restaurant proper' in the shape of Nectar.

I’d like to see them thinking a bit more about sourcing in terms of drinks and desserts (there are marvellous ice cream suppliers across Cheshire and as far as shakes and frappes are concerned, these can be made with natural ingredients, rather than syrups and powders) but these are minor concerns because the cooking is straight from the heart, and it really stands out.

Food is filling, warm, delicately prepared, perfectly timed, flavoursome and garden fresh. Yes, the cosy factor needs turning up a bit but the main dishes are the best I’ve tried of their kind. Cooking for a king, in surrounds that need a bit of work - and did I mention that it's BYO too?

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 9/10 food
4/5 service
1/5 ambience
Address: Nectar
404 Barlow Moor Road
M21 8AD
Tel: 0161 861 9300

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.

RubytuesdaygirlFebruary 10th 2011.

I pass this place every day on the way back from work and its always empty. I feel really sorry for them as by rights it should be really busy but I guess with the restaurants behind Turkish Delight and Pannico's just a few doors away and these being old favourites, they just have too much competition. Interesting that its BYO though. There are a few of these establishments in Chorlton and they really help with the cost of a meal out if you can bring your own Vino!

tight @rseFebruary 10th 2011.

Might have been better to include an approximate of the cost of the meal/dishes/final bill ? bearing in mind the current climate ?

ruthFebruary 10th 2011.

Tight, you are right. Here are some prices: £3-£4 per small plate (mezza) and £7-£9 per main course. Lebanese salad is £3.50, falafel £3, the kebabs are £8.90. Bargain.

tight @rseFebruary 10th 2011.

Cheers Ruth, an absolute give away at those prices and especially as its a BYO.....I'll get my coat !

NoodleDavidFebruary 10th 2011.

I ate here in Jan. Food was great and service well meaning. BYO a bargain. I hope its still going in 12 months but regretably I wouldn't bet on it.

Peter HarrisFebruary 10th 2011.

9/10 for food and BYO. I will definitely give it a try. How about an article listing all the BYO restaurants? Very tempting in the current financial climate.

ruthFebruary 10th 2011.

Thats a great idea Pedro. I think that Teacup are doing BYO (might be wrong here?) now thu - sat eves from 7pm with meatball menu... also Vnam on Oldham Road did it last time I was in too. There was an off license next door, which was handy ;)

Moira CahillFebruary 10th 2011.

I have eaten at Nectar 5 times since I was recommended it by a friend last December.The food is really authentic & good. The lunchtime menu-3 mezze for £4.95-is particularly good value-hope they're still doing it! I really hope it survives, so hope locals will support it as the BYO is a real bonus.I agree that it needs warming up a bit, but the owners have always seated us near a radiator or put a fan heater on. Lovely people, fab food. Try it!

Carolyn O'hanlonNovember 10th 2011.

I love this place - the food is lovely and with BYO you can have a very reasonably priced dinner that feels like an absolute treat. One of the reasons I didn't visit this place for ages is that I had had a cooked brekkie here back when it was just a cafe and I did not realise it had changed into a restaurant. I really think that they could do to marketing themselves as a proper restaurant venue. This place was reccomended to me and now I try and reccomend it to anyone who will listen. I think the atmosphere will improve if they can get more punters in.

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

Over the past couple of years they've changed their decor and added a wine list. However they've not changed the warm welcome and the great food. It's still a bargin, still great food and is still a friendly place to eat.

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