Gabbar is a new Indian restaurant on Merrion Street, which brings together veggie street food with craft beer and cocktails.
The opening of Gabbar is the realisation of a life-long dream for owner Manoj Bhura. He’s always wanted to show off his original Indian recipes, and now the Alwoodley native has finally done it. His new venue offers a diverse array of vegetarian Indian street food and you can wash it down with craft beer, cocktails or wine.
The first thing you notice about Gabbar is that it’s a huge venue. It covers a whopping 3,000 square feet and it’s filled to the rafters (no really, it has rafters) with character. This is a beautiful listed building, so they’ve tried to create a balance between the old and the new.
Manoj describes it as ‘retro Bollywood punk’, which basically means Chesterfield booths, original beams and high ceilings sit alongside a shiny modern bar and huge chandeliers. It’s a unique setting for dinner, drinks or a big night out because this Gabbar isn’t just a restaurant. The later it gets, the livelier it gets, so as the evening rolls on it turns into a bar and then a club – expect dancing until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
The food is still the main priority though. Gabbar’s menu is made up of 15 Indian street food dishes, as well as three main courses. They’re influenced by all the different types of Indian cuisine, from Mumbai to Delhi. The idea is that you order a selection of the small plates to share. There are some real highlights here, like the Gabbar Chaat – it’s a pressed samosa topped with salad, lemon, chutney and yoghurt.
You’ll want more than that though, so why not try the classic Indian fast food dish, the Pav Bhaji. It’s a beautifully rich mixed vegetable curry with butter and chopped onions, which is served in a soft bread bun. Or how about what Gabbar calls ‘The King of Street Food?’ Momos is a traditional steamed dumpling that originated in places like Nepal and Bhutan but is now a firm favourite in North East India. It comes packed with fragrant vegetables and cheese, then topped with your choice of hot red or dumpling sauce.
There’s one dish on the menu that you absolutely wouldn’t expect though, and it’s the one Manoj would have you try above all others, “My personal favourite would be the Chow Mein (wheat flour noodles, with garlic, ginger, bell peppers, onion, tomato and an array of sauces) because it is the Chinese option, from the Chinese-influenced regions of India, and no one else does it in the whole of Leeds, it is only us who does it. Try it with the Gobi Manchurian (cauliflower florets in batter) and Vada Pav (coated potato balls in a bun).”
It’s not all small plates – they also do a trio of mains. You’ve got two Punjabi favourites to choose from. The Daal Makhni brings together black grams and red kidney beans in a slow cooked buttery curry with a pile of basmati rice. Alternatively, the Shahi Paneer blends cashew nuts, garlic and cottage cheese in a thick sauce served over Kesaria rice. There’s also a delicious example of Mughlai cuisine – Shahi Malai Kofta is a slow cooked creamy dumpling curry made with dry fruits and cottage cheese.
Got room for dessert? Try the classic Falooda, which mixes rose syrup with vermicelli, sweet basil seeds, milk and ice cream, or their Kesar Kulfi Loaded, which is a creamier, harder version of ice cream – it’s handmade every day.
At the bar you’ll find all kinds of options. They’ve got six draught beers, including their own craft lager, as well a selection of craft cans and bottles – think Monsoon, Hellfire and Piñata, which have all been chosen because of how well they go with Indian food. Want wine? They’ve got two roses, 10 whites and 12 reds, which you can order by the glass or the bottle.
Then there’s the cocktails – eight are alcoholic, and three are non-alcoholic. Manoj has a top tip if you want to know where to start on your first visit, “I would pick the Mojito South India because you can always drink a traditional mojito, but our mojito is very different, we use tamarind water in it, so it is exciting, it is paired to our food as well. You’ll find a lot of Indian ingredients in our cocktails, flavours like cardamom, cinnamon and curry leaves.”
Gabbar is an exciting addition to Leeds’ ever-growing Indian street food offering, so the next time you’re heading to Merrion Street for a night out, why not check it out?
Gabbar, 17-19 Merrion Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 8JE.