Restaurant Review: Comptoir Libanais, Manchester

Comptoir Libanais – Lovely Lebanese Lunch

Nestled between war-torn Syria and tumultuous Israel, Lebanon could be forgiven for producing depressed cuisine: Comptoir Libanais Manchester’s environment was anything but. Dizzying splashes of vibrant colour with the frenetic fusing of glossy tiles, kitsch prints and miles of merchandise, created a spotlessly clean, immersive dining area.

Comptoir Libanais‘ zingy ‘Toufaha’ (apple, mint, ginger) and ‘Roomana’ (pomegranate, orange blossom) juices were the most refreshing entity my mouth had encountered: I now no longer regard non-alcoholic drinks the domain of the devout, prepubescent or recovering alcoholics only.

Starters provided mouth-watering salty, golden, succulent halloumi – God’s consolation prize to vegetarians. The accompanying robust tomatoes, vigorous dressing and flavourful olives whisked me away from Spinningfields to the Mediterranean. The simple Baba Ghanuj granted me authentically smokey bread, lifted with bursts of exotic pomegranate.

Regarding mains, a generous hunk of hot lamb was tender, satisfying with well-formed rice. The dish was properly slow-cooked, flavourful, zealously salty but ultimately one dimensional in taste, texture and presentation. Meanwhile, the falafel & fattoush salad was attractively arranged, with pleasingly contrasting colours and shapes. The falafel was skilfully formed, with befittingly crispy out edges and bready, soft centres. The dish provided a glorious balance of sweetness and acidity, and the fresh herbs worked wonders – a rare example of a salad that didn’t need a side of chips to make it delicious.

Comptoir Libanais Manchester produced food as genuine as the charming servers’ tans – a novelty for chain restaurants. Give it a go.

Comptoir Libanais Review Summary

Atmosphere 8/10    Cost 9/10    Quality 9/10    Service 9/10

 

Comptoir Libanais, Spinningfields Manchester Restaurant Review Lebanese Food

Wonderfully refreshing

Comptoir Libanais Manchester Spinningfields Restaurant Review Lebanese Food

Tomato & Halloumi

Comptoir Libanais, Spinningfields Manchester Restaurant Review Lebanese Food

Baba Ghanuj

Comptoir Libanais, Spinningfields Manchester Restaurant Review Lebanese Food

Falafel & Fattoush Salad

Comptoir Libanais, Spinningfields Manchester Restaurant Review Lebanese Food

Lamb Maqlooba

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Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester

The Black Cat Is The Top Dog

El Gato Negro – aka The Black Cat – an Edgar Allan Poe tale and a charming tapas restaurant on Manchester’s upmarket King Street. Tapas, at least in England, I find is generally predictable and served inauthentically; happily, El Gato Negro provided a welcome contrast with plates intriguingly designed and prepared in quick succession.

The oddly endearing Guinilla Peppers tasted curiously of Pickled Onion Monster Munch, which was no bad thing. Its cousin Mr Padron – unheard of three years ago, now everywhere – was fresh, flavourful and rightly, generously seasoned. I suggest the 2017 Award For Most Awesome Sounding Dish is given to ‘Gin Cured Salmon w/ Truffle Honey on Toast’. Although expensive, this little bundle of joy was well-balanced, somehow harmonious and certainly unique. The ‘Bikini’ was disappointingly not a swimsuit model but a rather pedestrian, small, ham and cheese toasty. The Chargrilled Sweet Potato provided a depth of flavour it had no right to have, with an ingeniously composed mango and chilli dressing.

The surprise star of the show was an ostentatiously elongated carrot. El Gato Negro’s equally elongated description of: ‘Chargrilled heritage carrots, aubergine purée, miso, walnut pesto and Manchego’, was an umami-filled revelation. I had something of a carrot based spiritual awakening (opened root chakra?) at Dinner By Heston, and El Gato Negro’s offering was a delicious close second to their two Michelin starred operation.

The savoury shenanigans were far from outdone by the beautifully presented sharing dessert. This ensemble of Spanish and European fancies was technically well crafted, and equally lovely on the palate. The perfect Barbie-pink macaroon was fought over and the ice-cream was as good as you’ll find anywhere.

El Gato Negro service was organised, expressive but not overbearing, and genuinely friendly by irksomely handsome, tattooed Spaniards. My only minor gripe from the well-oiled kitchen was most of the pescetarian dishes arriving at the end, rather than interspersed through the procession.

These culinary dopamine hits came at a cost; but, El Gato Negro Tapas’ urban cool environment and numerous memorable flavours made it certainly worth it.

El Gato Negro Tapas Review Summary

Atmosphere 8/10    Cost 6/10    Quality 10/10    Service 10/10

Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food

Padrón peppers with Halen Môn sea salt & Spicy-sweet guindilla peppers

Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food

Catalan bread with olive oil, garlic and fresh tomato

Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food

Bikini (toasted sandwich with jamón ibérico and manchego)

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Salt cod croquetas, piquillo pepper purée and aioli

Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food

Gin cured salmon w/ truffle honey on toast

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Chargrilled heritage carrots, aubergine purée, miso and walnut pesto, Manchego

Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food

Chargrilled sweet potato with mango, chilli and yoghurt dressing (GF)

Restaurant Review: El Gato Negro Tapas, Manchester, Black Cat Spanish Catalonia Basque Country Food

A special selection of their favourite desserts

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