[Manchester, city centre] Comptoir Libanais

Yet another mini-chain makes its first foray from its home area to set up in Manchester. In this case, the London based Lebanese mini-chain. I suppose it says something about the current renewed vibrancy in the city centre and it has to be a good thing. We’re not that well endowed with Middle Eastern places in the area, although there are a growing number in Rusholme, replacing several of the old curry houses. So, I’m always going to welcome somewhere new setting up. And the food was decent enough – although it’s fair to say that the likes of Yara in Altrincham (and Alderley Edge) have nothing to fear from Comptoir. And, whilst we had a nice evening, there’s really no reason to go back.

We ordered a mezze platter to start. Baba ghanoush was nicely lemony but had none of the smokiness you hope for. On the other hand, houmous needed more lemon. Tabbouleh was good with lots of parsley. Falafel were indifferent and no better than Sainsbury’s. Cheese sambousek tasted good but was let down by soggy pastry. One thing they had got right was the amount of pitta – lots of it. Another thing they got right was service – after orders had been taken, there was an apology that they would be a bit of delay as they were just serving a very large party – but here’s a comp’d bowl of olives to nibble on while you wait. And, in fact, the delay was hardly noticeable.

If you hadn’t come with much of an appetite, the platter and the olives would have done you for food. We’d come with appetites. So, on to main courses. One was lamb koftas – four kebabs of flavoursome meat, cooked just right. It came with a yoghurt sauce, a harissa based one and vermicelli rice. The other was man’ousha – a flatbread topped with za’atar and olives (they have a couple of other versions). This was nice and light – more snack than “proper” main course – but needed a little more time in the oven to crisp up. A little bowl of salad accompanied it.

So, I think if you were in the city centre and wanted Lebanese, you’d be fine here. But you really would do better to get the tram out to Altrincham to go to Yara.

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I went soon after the first one opened in Soho. Prices were keen and the service was good. You mention your disappointment at the Baba ghanoush but I remember it being deep and smokey, the chicken liver with pomegranate molasses was also very good. Seems like a classic case of a business expanding and unable to keep control of food quality. It may not be the case here but it seems a lot of people’s first question with a restaurant is " is this a concept we can scale up?" rather than lets knock out some good food.

Agreed. There’s a place near me that does Indian tiffin dishes and the like. It’s good grub and absolutely packed every night as its only tiny. They’ve just opened a second place in a trendy part of the city centre.

Assuming you allude to Mowgli, I was there on Sunday afternoon ( around 3pm,before the crowds descended & the hour and a half wait ensued ! ) and overheard some ‘visitors’ from Manchester telling their waitress that they much preferred the Liverpool branch to the new one in Manchester. Would be interested to know if the Manchester branch attains the same consistency food wise as Liverpool. Thought it bizarre at the weekend that Jay Rayner should review Maray which I have found to be inconsistent and ignored Mowgli about ten doors down. Perhaps he couldnt get in to Mowgli !

No, I was referring to Aamchi Mumbai, in Cheadle.

I hadnt come across Mowgli - thanks for the tip off - now added to my “to try” list. Menu looks good