New opening set to bring disco cauliflower, lamb kofta and falafels with fighting talk to our city
Thank god the cauliflower crisis is over (for now) because popular Liverpool restaurant Maray is coming to Manchester.
Our sources tell us that Maray's new Manchester restaurant will open just near the recently revamped Lincoln Square in the corner spot formerly occupied by Sicilian wine bar Veeno.
It's not an easy one to pigeonhole but it nets together beautifully and just works
This corner of Manchester city centre is having something of a renaissance with the Town Hall under extensive refurbishment and the aforementioned Lincoln Square just recently unveiling its much-needed glow up.
The Fountain House opened late last year and Ate Days a Week will be bringing its pies to Albert Square with a new Come Together offshoot. Albert Square's pedestrianisation is sure to attract more bars and restaurants too - Maray showing faith in the area could be what convinces others to take the plunge, like a speckled flatbread into a dish of luxurious hummus.
Confidentials' restaurant reviewer (and then Liverpool editor) Angie Sammons sniffed out Maray on Bold Street the day after it arrived in the city in 2014 with its etched-glass slogan “Falafel, Cocktails, Small Plates”. At the time, small plates were a bit new and exciting and Angie loved it. Then in 2019, I hopped on the train to Liverpool early for a gig at the Zanzibar. It was the perfect opportunity to review Maray Albert Docks. My Merseyside friends had been banging on about it for some time and I was dying to try it.
I thought it was sensational, giving it a cool 17.5/20. Regular readers of Confidentials restaurant reviews will know a score like that isn't given lightly. My veggie friend and I had shared a raft of meat-free delights including the now-famous Disco Cauliflower ("looked like a swamp thing but tasted like a souk on a plate"), a halloumi dish with tamarind caramel that could only be summed up with a Homer (Simpson) quote, and those famed falafels. I could only imagine how good the meaty dishes were.
This was Maray's third branch in Liverpool after the Bold Street restaurant (and its basement) and one on Allerton Road. There was much talk of further expansion of the brand outside Merseyside and Manchester seemed the obvious choice.
What's the Maray menu like?
Nowadays, that tamarind caramel has been replaced by Persian cherry jam and pistachio dukkah. The disco cauli remains, as do the famous falafel sharer and whipped goats cheese (another dish that had me all emotional). Two-thirds of the main menu is veg-forward, with a small selection of feisty fish and meat dishes flying the #notallmeat flag. Think cured loch trout with soft-boiled egg, crostini, harissa cream cheese and pickled beetroot or rare rump steak with cafe de Paris butter. We hope all these dishes make it to the Manchester menu but at this stage, who knows?
Maray is named after the arty Marais region of Paris and there are whispers of French cafe cuisine on the menu but the founders say they changed the spelling as they didn't want people to think Maray was a French restaurant. The aforementioned dishes highlight that the heart of the menu is in the big flavours more recognisable in Persian, Jewish and Lebanese cuisine. It's not an easy one to pigeonhole but unlike many small plates gaffs these days, it nets together beautifully and just works. Of course, we'll reserve judgement on the Manchester branch until somebody has been in to review it.
Rumours no more, Maray is en route to Manchester
There has been rumour after rumour that Maray was coming to Manchester. At one point, it was said to be opening underneath Afflecks. Then Ancoats was all up in our rumour grill. Is it? Isn't it? Will you? Won't you? Are you dancing? Are you asking? I'm asking. I'm dancing. But first, we need the disco cauliflower, dammit!
With Maray's Manchester brand (set up in 2018) dissolved by Companies House in 2019 and then the pandemic, we'd started to give up hope. But knock us down with a falafel, it's finally happening and it's a stone's throw from our office. While a licence application is not currently pending, the fit out at the Veeno site has already begun so we are hoping to get a celebratory team lunch in sooner rather than later.
You heard it here first.
Maray 14 Brazennose St, Manchester M2 6LW
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