Habbibi Leeds review: I tried Abdu Rozik and Tom Zanetti’s new Dubai-inspired restaurant in Victoria Gate

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Global cuisine, golden opulence, beautiful belly dancers clad in goddess-inspired outfits and a rooftop shisha terrace with views over the glittering lights of the city.

I hadn’t - sadly - hopped on a plane to Dubai for this review, just up to the top of Victoria Gate to Abdu Rozik and Tom Zanetti’s glamorous new restaurant, bar and shisha lounge.

The new opening came as a surprise to us in January. Why Abdu, a 20-year-old global social media sensation, picked Leeds as the city to open his first restaurant remains a mystery - and Habbibi has certainly got people talking.

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With its name derived from the Arabic term of endearment, translated to ‘my love’ or ‘my dear’, the restaurant promises pure indulgence - and that it had. I’d seen plenty of pictures, but the decor still took my breath away - it’s stunning. 

Habbibi is Abdu Rozik's new restaurant in Victoria Gate, Leeds (Photo by National World)Habbibi is Abdu Rozik's new restaurant in Victoria Gate, Leeds (Photo by National World)
Habbibi is Abdu Rozik's new restaurant in Victoria Gate, Leeds (Photo by National World)

Beautiful floral arrangements hang from the ceiling, stylish white marble is blended with deep royal blues and golden accents. The grandeur and high ceilings add to the feeling of being transported out of Leeds. Indeed, a snap on Instagram had people asking where I was - across the road from Kirkgate Market wasn’t the answer they were expecting. 

It was the Saturday after Valentine’s Day when I visited with friends, and there were plenty of couples enjoying a date night, as well as larger groups - some enjoying desserts and the great range of mocktails and soft drinks. 

There’s a broad wine list, ranging from a £7 glass of chardonnay to the £350 bottle of Ace of Spades Brut, as well as classic cocktails and enticingly-named signature pours, from the Dreaming Dubai to the Sultan’s Treasure.

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The 20-year-old social media sensation has partnered with Tom Zanetti for the Leeds venture (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)The 20-year-old social media sensation has partnered with Tom Zanetti for the Leeds venture (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)
The 20-year-old social media sensation has partnered with Tom Zanetti for the Leeds venture (Photo by James Hardisty/National World)

I went for the latter, a refreshing Bombay Sapphire cocktail with St Germain, a fiery ginger syrup, lemon, apple juice, tonic and elderflower - an exotic take on an English Garden - while my friends enjoyed a bramble and the Habbibi Cosmo, made with earl grey vodka and hibiscus syrup. 

The food menu is concise, inspired by Abdu’s travels around the world, with predominantly Greek and Turkish influences. I’ll be totally honest - I wasn’t expecting much from it. With all the glamour and show, I feared a case of style over substance.

I was wrong.

We started two appetisers - fried halloumi and mixed olives from the appetiser menu. The perfectly-cooked halloumi was lightly battered and drizzled with warm honey and lemon, topped with Aleppo pepper, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. It was deliciously moorish and we had to fight over the last piece - the soft kalamata olives with a vinegary marinade disappeared equally as quickly.

The Ferrero Rocher cheesecake (Photo by National World) The Ferrero Rocher cheesecake (Photo by National World)
The Ferrero Rocher cheesecake (Photo by National World)

For the mains, I ordered the lamb moussaka, served with garlic bread and a tomato and onion salad. There was a mix-up in the kitchen and both the moussaka and a complimentary tasty vegetable lasagna arrived - result. 

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The moussaka was gorgeous, succulent mince and smokey aubergine drenched in a smooth Bechamel sauce - a hearty portion on its own, and the addition of garlic bread was the icing on the cake. My friends had the grilled ribeye steak with garlic butter, served on a bed of smashed potato with tenderstem broccoli and a peppercorn sauce, and the light grilled sea bass which flaked away. 

We were stuffed but the dessert menu looked too tempting to pass on, so we shared the Ferrero Rocher cheesecake swirled with Nutella. It was heavenly - creamy and decadent.

The vegetable lasagne and lamb moussaka (Photo by National World)The vegetable lasagne and lamb moussaka (Photo by National World)
The vegetable lasagne and lamb moussaka (Photo by National World)

Prices were above average for Leeds but around what we’d expected, appetisers ranged from £6.45-£11.45, burgers just under £19 and mains from £16.95 for the vegetable lasagne to £28.95 for the ribeye steak. 

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Staff were friendly but there are a few teething issues with the service that need ironing out - it was hard to flag anyone down when we needed them.

But as we tucked into our food we enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere - the dancers weaved their way around the restaurant and terrace and the live DJ was later joined by a live trumpet and percussion.  

Habbibi’s glamour and social media hype isn’t going to be for everyone, but there certainly isn’t anywhere like it in Leeds. And I think it’s just what the city was missing. 

Factfile

Address: Victoria Gate 3rd Floor, Rooftop, George Street, Leeds, LS2 7AU

Telephone: 0330 153 8009

Opening hours: Mon-Sun, noon-2am

Scores

Food: 9/10

Value: 7/10

Atmosphere: 10/10

Service: 7/10 

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