We had a look around the newest restaurant opening imported from Liverpool
When we revealed that Maray was coming to Manchester back in February, the response was a mixture of rapturous delight and a politely curious, "What's that then?"
For Mancs who make their way over to Liverpool to eat, the name immediately set off fireworks. Maray is something of a pilgrimage and there were plenty of happy fans relieved they could finally get their disco-cauli fix without schlepping down the M62.
For those who stay on their home turf when it comes to dinner (and who can blame you?), you've got a delightful discovery to make.
Maray's Liverpool success story
Maray is named after the bobo Marais region of Paris (with a slight spelling change to protect the innocent) and while there are definitely nods to French culture, especially in the fit-out, the true inspiration is the Lebanese, North African and Jewish cuisine of Marais's rich immigrant food culture, if one absolutely had to put a finger on it. Co-founder Tom White told Confidentials in 2019 that the best falafel the team had had in the Marais district was at L’As du Fallafel and to recreate that was the starting point for the menu.
The tiny first Maray opened on Bold Street way back in 2014 to rave reviews including ours, with a second on Allerton road following swiftly afterwards and a third at Royal Albert Docks in 2019. Manchester had always been whispered about but the team has finally bitten the bullet and opened in the old Veeno site on Lincoln Square.
What can I eat and drink?
Small plates rule here. There is about a 2:1 ratio of veg dishes to meat, so veggies can feel confident there is a good selection for them and everyone else can discover the joys of a veg-forward diet without entirely leaving their carnivore comfort zones.
The disco-cauliflower - a head of cauliflower baked with chermoula, harissa, tahini, yoghurt, pomegranate, almonds and fresh herbs - is the dish that made Maray's name and is a must-try, but the menu rewards further exploration. Braised carrots with muhammara, pickled celeriac, orange and tamarind glaze brings the humble root veg to a new level while spiced lentil and rice mejadara with fried greens, crispy onions, raisins, Aleppo chilli oil is a straight-up Middle Eastern classic.
The chickpea dopiaza is a thick, luscious take on a curry house favourite, while the falafel sharer sets out the Maray stall on a plate.
Puddings aren't a huge focus at Maray but the few dishes on the limited dessert list do their thing with aplomb. Middle Eastern flavours meet nursery classics such as Medjool date bread and butter pudding or strawberry and coconut rice pudding.
The wine list features safe standards like Kiwi Savvy B but also reflects the menu's regional palette with wines from places like Georgia, Armenia and Macedonia. There are cocktails too including an Agent Cooper espresso martini with the addition of everyone;'s favourite spice megamix, Ras El Hanout.
What's it like inside?
The Manchester Maray makes a bit of a departure from the look of the Liverpool branches, but we wouldn't expect identikit branding from this lot anyway. The feel is of an upscale bistro in the Cote d'Azur circa 1985, as imagined by Jasper Conran (trust us, it's a lewk).
Cool bistro-tiled floors, teal leather banquettes and classic bentwood chairs all nod to the French feel, but offset against raw concrete and shaggy planting suspended from the ceiling, just to mix things up a bit.
A bold Suze (the French brand of gentian-flavoured bitters) logo plastered on the tiles behind the bar gives a hit of orange amongst the cool greys and blues, but it's the subtle collection of art - a poster of Matisse's Nu Aux Oranges and a print of a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin, plus several intriguing lithographs - that inject personality and tie everything together.
There's a lovely little outside terrace that catches the sun while we are lucky enough to have it, from which can gaze out onto newly smartened-up Lincoln Square or the not-so-hidden Hidden Gem church while having a glass or two of the delightful smoky "Blanc De Blanc" Lebanese white.
Maray 14 Brazennose St, Manchester M2 6LW
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