Tucked above a takeaway in Manchester’s gay village is one of the city’s best-kept foodie secrets.
It’d be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there, with a very small sign only really visible from neighbouring Richmond Street – not from Sackville Street, where you enter.
Accessed through the Istanbul Express takeaway via a winding staircase, it feels like one of those bar-in-a-bar gimmicks – except this isn’t the Northern Quarter and the hidden entrance isn’t designed to be an ‘Instagram friendly’ photo opportunity.
At this no-frills joint, it’s all about the food – not your social media pictures.
The authentic Ethiopian restaurant once laid claim to being Manchester’s only such eatery – but has recently been joined on the scene by another of the same name, located in Ancoats and at Mala. As far as we can tell, the two aren’t connected.
Serving up traditional Ethiopian curries on soft, spongy sourdough-fermented injera bread, Habesha has been quietly ticking away for years pulling in a steady stream of regulars.
The dining experience here pretty much revolves around the injera, with curries either served on top of a huge sharing plate-style sphere or accompanied by rolls of the soft, fluffy bread – perfect for scooping up all those little last morsels of sauce at the end of your meal.
To get the most out of the experience here you should really also eat with your hands, although there is cutlery on hand for those who might need it.
For meat-eaters, there’s a couple of different options to choose from and it’s customary to order a few and share. If you’re a lover of spice, something like the Awaze Tibs will probably be up your street.
A dish of tender lamb cubes well cooked with onion, tomato and hot pepper sauce, it comes with a ‘hot and spicy’ warning suggesting it is not for the faint-hearted.
Elsewhere, there’s a slow-cooked, tender chicken dish made using thigh meat called Doro Wot that comes served with an egg, and the Ethiopian answer to steak tartare, beef Kitfo.
This dish of lean minced beef mixed with chilli powder, herbal butter and cardamom can be cooked either medium or well done to request, but is also not untypical to be eaten raw.
There’s plenty for vegans and veggies here, too, not just meat-eaters – with a small selection of dishes like Yetsom Beyaynetu (spicy red lentils, yellow split peas, cabbage and carrots, shiro and house salad) and Shiro (powdered chickpeas cooked with onion, garlic and pepper) catering to those with a plant-based diet.
And on the drinks front, you’ll find a selection of Ethiopian and Eritrean beers and wine alongside more typical American brands like Budweiser and Red Bull.
A true hidden gem, if you’re in the village this weekend celebrating Pride and fancy a scran seriously consider giving it a look in.
Whilst its homely decor will make you feel a world away from the street parties below, the speaker systems on Richmond Street are guaranteed to still bring the vibes through the open windows.
To find out more about Habesha and view the full menu, click here.
Chorlton neighbourhood favourite The Creameries has permanently closed
Chorlton neighbourhood favourite The Creameries has permanently closed, it has been confirmed.
According to chef-owner Mary-Ellen McTague, the business had been doing well at the end of 2019 but has been “f*cked” ever since the pandemic.
Two years of not bringing in enough money, coupled with fewer people eating out, a backlog of loans and then a rise in VAT combined to leave her with little option but to sell – yet whilst there were a few interested buyers, none made it over the finish line.
As a result, after trying a number of different formats to keep the business going, she has made the decision to close up shop for good.
Speaking on closure, Mary-Ellen told the Manchester Evening News: “The whole thing has been awful, but it has been like that since the beginning of the pandemic.
“There was still a chance we were going to make a sale. We had three consecutive buyers who were very close, and then backed away,” she continued.
“The longer the economic instability has gone on, the more and more nervous [buyers] have been.
“In September 2019, we started operating just as a restaurant, doing tasting menus, and it was working so well,” she said. “We had a brilliant Jay Rayner review, it was packed, we were making money, not just keeping afloat. Then the pandemic hit, and we’ve been f**ked since then.”
The former Edwardian Dairy was first opened in 2018 by the esteemed Manchester chef Mary-Ellen McTague as a bakery and natural wine bar serving a selection of pickles and small plates.
It later switched to operating as a restaurant, serving tasting menus that proved very popular with punters, before – like the rest of hospitality – it was forced to close in early 2020 as the country went into lockdown.
When it reopened, it tried a few different things before introducing Campagna, an affordable Italian menu that, whilst popular, didn’t manage to keep bringing in the footfall in the long term.
It appears that a new tenant has secured the site, although further details surrounding the operator are currently being kept under wraps.
“We tried so hard. To adapt and survive, and it just didn’t work,” Mary-Ellen added.
“Pre-pandemic it was really, really, really hard to get to the point where more money was going in than coming out. Restaurants don’t talk about it a lot, but if you ask people off the record, most will say that getting to the point where you’ve done slightly better than break even, that’s a strong month.
“Things went from challenging to just completely impossible.”
Going forward, Mary-Ellen will focus her efforts on her restaurant-backed community project Eat Well MCR, which feeds hidden homeless families in Manchester and has to date delivered over 70,000 meals to people in need.
She will also continue to work on the new Treehouse Hotel opening, which is expected to open in Manchester city centre in early 2023.
Feature image – The Creameries
Massive queue forms FOUR HOURS ahead of Wagamama katsu curry giveaway
Wagamama is giving away free katsu curries today – and a massive queue has already formed.
The popular restaurant’s site on St Peter’s Square in Manchester city centre has a long line of people eagerly hoping to snap up a free lunch.
The giveaway has been launched in celebration of National Katsu Curry Day, with restaurants right across England, Scotland and Wales taking part.
In Manchester city centre alone, there are Wagamama restaurants at St Peter’s Square, Spinningfields and Printworks – not to mention the six more scattered across Greater Manchester boroughs.
The free curry dishes won’t be given out until 3pm on Tuesday 27 September – but already by 11am there were dozens standing in line in town.
With only 50 katsu dishes per Wagamama restaurant up for grabs, handed out on a first-come first-serve basis, it’s looking like the early queueing will be totally necessary.
The freebies are also only available to students who have registered with the new Wagamama Noodle Union, a new student society, which is being fronted by YouTuber Niko Omilana.
Niko said: “As one of my first acts as noodle union president, I’m proud to announce free katsu to mark National Katsu Curry Day – a day to celebrate across the nation as we come together in honour of all things katsu.
“Make sure to sign up to the noodle union so that you don’t miss out on a free katsu curry and other epic prizes throughout the year!”
Wagamama will give away 50 free katsu dishes per restaurant for dine-in, and diners can choose from chicken, yasai, vegatsu or hot.