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The Cedar Tree

Lynda visits The Cedar Tree in the Northern Quarter and learns the art of DIY dining out…

Published on January 6th 2011.

The Cedar Tree

A quaint little spot on Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter, entering The Cedar tree is like stepping into someone’s cosy lounge with its dim lights and log fire. The Cedar Tree has a BYO (bring your own) drinks policy which would have been fine, if they’d told us this when we were booking. Nevertheless, there are soft drinks (£1.50 per can) available to purchase. Of course that way you miss having a nice glass of wine with your meal, but you also miss the £3 corkage charge. Everyone’s a winner.

Our waiter was extremely pleasant and welcoming, so we were disappointed when he told us ‘There is a party of 20 in tonight so I’ll try my best to serve you but…you know.’ No, we didn’t know. Surely service should be equal for everyone? Not one to hold a grudge I sank into my chair and hoped this had just been a ‘false start.’

The menu boasts a wide variety of dishes which are very traditional and great for those on a tight budget. We waited half an hour to get served…if you could call it that. The waiter (who had his hands full with the party of 20’s plates) passed us his pencil and pad and kindly asked us if we could just jot down our order. Not just a false start then. It was so shockingly embarrassing that we couldn’t help laughing. The sign on the door had read ‘Staff Wanted’ but we weren’t aware that we were actually going to be recruited then and there. If I’d have wanted self catering I would have gone to an ‘all-you-can–eat’ buffet for a fiver.

Pencil to pad, we went for the Kellaj- halloumi cheese grilled in Lebanese bread (£6.00), and Kibbeh Sajj- crushed wheat paste stuffed with mince lamb, onions, pine nuts (£6.50). The grilled cheese was delicious and the bread nicely toasted. The Kibbeh Sajj tasted similar to homemade burgers, but there was nothing wrong with that. If only the service could meet the standards of the food, this - the only Lebanese restaurant in central Manchester - would be a gold mine.

Having barely put the last forkful of grilled cheese into my mouth, the main courses appeared on the table. First too slow and now too quick, whatever next!? Actually, you won’t believe what happened next. We couldn’t. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me as I witnessed the waiter swigging water from an empty tables’ water jug. Oh no he didn’t…oh yes he did! Our cosy meal for two had suddenly become a pantomime in which our waiter was indeed the star of the show.

For our mains we opted for Faroug Meshwi - whole baby chicken, grilled and served with or without garlic sauce (£8.50) and Fillet Steak served with grilled tomatoes and green peppercorn sauce (£14.95). Both of our meats were cooked to perfection, but I would advise to order sides with your meal as the meat doesn’t come with anything at all. Vegetables are not big in the Lebanese diet you see, which is great I guess if you’re on the Atkins diet. My ‘baby’ chicken was more like a young adolescent, but still tender. The laid back attitude of the staff and homely feel of the place is certainly reflected in the food. Forget posh nosh with a drizzle of sauce round the edge. This is real food. Real portions. The chicken dish came without sauce which I pointed out to our clown waiter. Surprisingly he quickly disappeared into the kitchen and came back seconds later with what can only be described as a vat of garlic sauce. They certainly don’t do things by halves here.

The dessert menu was all in Lebanese with no English explanation. We asked the owner (who had now crawled out from the back to help the lone waiter) to translate for us. Of the 6 desserts they serve apparently each and every one of them is either ‘cashew nuts,’ ‘dates’ or ‘cashew nuts and dates.’

We chose Baklava (£3.50) and Maamoul (£3.50) using the ‘eenie meenie miney mo’ method. Both were fantastic. It’s just a shame that the menu didn’t do them any justice. For someone who has no idea about Turkish or Lebanese desserts, Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry filled with chopped nuts, (walnuts, pistachios and cashew) layered with filo pastry and sweetened with honey syrup. Maamoul is rounded cookies made from semolina paste and stuffed with pistachios, walnuts, cashews and dates.

As I drew out my card to pay, the waiter empathetically said “Oh no! Why didn’t you draw out cash!” You see there’s a £3 service charge on if you pay by credit card. (Cor blimey! - as Gordo would say) Along with the BYO policy, maybe he could have mentioned this on the phone. The final straw in a series of blunders.

Although disappointing in a lot of ways I can’t be too harsh on The Cedar Tree because the food is excellent and the staff are genuinely lovely, if not a bit daft. The evening was entertaining but I’m not sure it was for the right reasons! The place clearly lacks money staff and logic, but hopefully they will figure it out because it does have lots of potential. On talking to ‘Sam’ the owner, he mentioned that they were in the process of getting a drinks licence and the advert for staff is still up in the window as we speak. Don’t give up Sam!

Lynda Moyo

The Cedar Tree
69 Thomas Street
City Centre
M4 1LQ

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

RedrophenicFebruary 8th 2007.

Overpriced kebab house food. Very dirty. Was overcharged twice in the bill and 1.95 for a little plastic bottle of water!

gorFebruary 8th 2007.

gorgeous food - left my mouth watering all night but the waitess must be permanantly on the blob. She tried sitting us at a table with a filthy table cloth covered in the previous diners food and fat and got nasty when we asked her to move it. From then on our food was flung at us. Food really is amazing though but better servive at bawadi.

mooheadFebruary 8th 2007.

Visited last friday night pre pictures. £4-6 starters and mains for £13-17 and three quid corkage.Food ok, had as good mixed kebab from takeaway.FAR TOO EXPENSIVE. Go next door.

nickyFebruary 8th 2007.

We visited the cedar tree a few weeks ago for our works do. The food was lousy - massively underseasoned and the service was rubbish. As for the toilets - that's another story. The chef also looked filthy and did not wash his hands after having a cigarette to going straight back to cooking and touching food. I would recommend environmental health pay them a vist.

AnonymousFebruary 8th 2007.

Ate there last night. Similar comical service. Having sat down, then had to get back up and walk to Picadilly Gardens to get some cash. Ordering wasn't the easiest either: "I'll have number 12 please" "Number 9" "No number 12" "You just said 9" "No, I said 12" ...etc.The food was good, but not great and the prices must have leapt since this article. £6.50 for a fish starter which didn't come with the sauce and then £13.50 for a mixed grill is far too much. Came away £50 lighter and didn't even have a glass of wine (Can of coke is £2.) Service is pleasant, if idiosyncratic but The Cedar House is not worth the money by a long shot. Shame because if they were reasonably priced, served alcohol and accepted cards they would probably be onto a winner.

Bashar ZeedanFebruary 8th 2007.

The restaurant is absolutely rubbish, i visited the place last year and almost left everything on the table, food was heated and not fresh and the service was not that good.The best lebanese restaurant in probably the U.K and not only Manchster is "Cedars of Lebanon" in Wilmslow area, i wonder why is it not mentioned here while it's a place where you can have the best meal ever, enjoy a posh looking venue and have an amazing service, with a full bar accomodates for almost anything you ask for, including the lebanese traditional drinks! a must visit.

suepabsFebruary 20th 2011.

Eaten there once before some years ago when we loved it. Last night's food was absolutely abominable. Oh yes and the place certainly isn't the cleanest. What the hell happened to Bawadi ?

AnonymousJune 4th 2011.

As an arab have to say that the food here is NOT GOOD..you want decent arabic food, Nectar Bistro, Petra and Aladin are probably your best bets in Manchester

Jonny b goodJuly 10th 2011.

Is this still open?

fussycowFebruary 26th 2012.

quite possibly the worst 'service' i have ever experienced. also very dirty- even the tables were not cleaned between diners.
two small but overfed children did their best to assist, whilst the lazy waitress scowled and barked orders at everyone.
the food is average at best, which is a shame- lebanese is such a beautiful, simple cuisine; it should be easy to get it right if everything is fresh.

AnonymousJanuary 26th 2013.

still going apparently, but not often full

AnonymousApril 4th 2013.

Here is a review of you review: "Vegetables are not big in the Lebanese diet" and "The dessert menu was all in Lebanese" clearly someone doesn't know anything about Lebanese, food or culture. Being Lebanese I can assure you that Lebanese cuisine has more vegetarian and vegan dishes than it has meat dishes. Lebanese is not a language, the language spoken in Lebanon and most of the middle east is Arabic. I am sad to hear the service was what sounds like way below acceptable, but am annoyed at your ignorance. Had you kept your review purely based on your experience and maybe done some research before making certain statements it would have been ok.

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