Kelly Bishop gets a big Lebanese breakfast on the curry mile
The English are weirdly prescriptive about breakfast. It’s either the jaw-aching punishment of cereal or “things on toast”. Even the revered Full English is just toast with eggs and varying grades of salty meat.
The more Americanised modern brunch of our gentrification nation is getting a bit tired for me too. How many more avocado, egg, sourdough combos do you expect me to get truly excited by? Let’s not even get started on the avocado mafia.
The egg yolks swirling into the sauce lend themselves to copious dipping with the puffed-up pittas
It’s a shame we’re like this. There are so many thrilling breakfast items on the world’s plate.
In Malaysia, there is nasi lemak, creamy coconut rice with spicy tamarind paste, peanuts and boiled eggs wrapped in banana leaves to form a green pyramid. In Vietnam, chicken noodle soup is a popular choice to kickstart the morning with and I once sampled a foetal duck egg for brunch after a load of snails in Ho Chi Minh city - beat that, Ancoats.
In Mexico, well you can have tacos, of course, palm-sized, soft corn ones with scrambled eggs, white cheese, pickles and hot sauce. Colombians eat corn arepas alongside their own version of scrambled eggs spiked with garlic, onion and tomato - and perhaps a spiced sausage. The French dip their fresh croissants in a bowl of thick hot chocolate. Why anyone would eat the same thing for breakfast week in week out when there are so many options is beyond me.
With this in mind, I head to Rusholme for breakfast.
The most interesting things to eat on Manchester’s curry mile are often on the side streets rather than Wilmslow Road itself. It’s on one of these side streets that you’ll find Cedar Bakery housed in what looks like a former storage unit with corrugated plastic panelling and a wooden, BBQ-primed outdoor dining area (roll on summer).
Inside, the ceiling is pretty latticework that brings character to the otherwise fairly uninspiring marble and velvet. Almost a whole wall is a window that looks into the huge kitchen and bakery, definitely a draw for me as I do love a nosey backstage.
I have great memories of teaching English to Arabic students who would bring in cardamom-scented coffee, honeyed pastries and cakes with rose or orange blossom for our mid-morning break. Cedar with its Lebanese bounty has this kind of stuff for days. Those fishtanks chefs produce mountains of fresh baklava stuffed with walnuts or pistachios and drizzled with honey then piled high on hand-beaten copper trays. It’s reason enough alone to visit.
Though my teeth are mostly of the savoury variety, I can’t resist ordering the Lebanese “national cheesecake” knefeh. Our nabulsi version (£5.50 for 250g) is made from shredded, vermicelli-esque filo pastry, fried buttery and golden and stuffed with Akkawi, a white cheese somewhere between mozzarella and feta. It’s then drizzled with a sense-heightening sugar syrup that could keep your dentist busy for life. If you are a real masochist, you can add Nutella too. It’s too sweet for me but I’m glad to have tried it.
What we’re really here for, though, is a savoury breakfast feast and that’s what we get. Eggs bil lahma (£4.99) is scrambled eggs mixed with minced meat. My protein powered other half loves it, but I prefer some of the other dishes.
Perhaps top of my pile is from the section marked “pastries”, fresh flatbreads, some folded and stuffed with cheese and other bits and bobs. Our choice from the dazzling 18 options contains sujuk (£2.75) a spicy fermented beef sausage that reminds me a little of the kosher sausage my mother in law buys. It’s deep pink in colour and spiced but not spicy. Its intense salty flavour is something akin to thick salami but far softer in texture. It's served with a bowl of crunchy crudites to balance out that meaty, cheesy, carby joy.
Shakshuka (£5.95), eggs baked in a rich spiced tomato sauce, is becoming a staple on Manchester’s brunch menus. Cedar’s version focuses on flavour rather than too much fannying about with presentation. The egg yolks swirling into the sauce lend themselves to copious dipping with the puffed-up pittas that come with it. You get two of those pittas with every dish so if you order a feast like us, the inevitable leftovers will do you for a week - packed into a brown paper bag to take home.
There’s batata harra (£4.99) too, a big tick from me. Who doesn’t love a soft fried spud that’s become intimately acquainted with a load of spices, softened peppers and tomato? It's a criminally unsung culinary combo. A glistening pot of tangy moutabal (£5.25) is topped with olive oil the colour of my favourite pub tiles (Peveril of the Peak) and a little pile of pink pomegranate. My other half isn’t sure that an aubergine dip suits his breakfast requirements but is quickly won over as he digs deep with more warm pitta.
Nothing here is over presented. NQ brunchers might bemoan the lack of edible flowers and carefully fanned avocado. Our spread when photographed reminds me of a 70s cookbook, all terracotta and parsley. And to be honest, it’s all the better for it. We leave with a big box of the irresistible house-baked baklava (£17) which is hoovered up by team Confidentials when I bring it to the office the next day.
You go to Cedar to be looked after. The almost identical sisters who serve us are absolutely charming. The food is plentiful, all flavour, no fuss. This is my new go-to for breakfast - and I bet it’s a great Saturday lunch too.
Cedar Bakery, 2 Walmer St E, Rusholme, Manchester M14 5SS
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
‘Pastry’ with sujek 7.5, shakshuka 7, moutabal 8, nabulsi knefeh 7, batata harra 7.5, eggs bil lahma 6.5, baklawa 8
Friendly, patient and genuine.
Gets buzzier as it gets busier