9 Reasons You Need To Try Modern African Food & Drink

By Clare Acheson - 05 Oct 2016

Our insatiable appetite for new cuisine isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, and our latest food crush HAS to be modern African food. Why? It’s got everything: Rich spices, fresh flavours, juicy meats AND mouth-watering vego options that mean we’re not always having to settle for a kale and feta salad.

We caught up with the team behind polēpolē—Melbourne CBD’s infamous hidden African restaurant—and Glamp, their sister cocktail bar that’s tucked inside a safari tent to find out just what makes modern African food and drinks so drool-worthy. As the Little Collins Street restaurant and bar duo prepare for long summer nights of cold beers, decadent cocktails, and feasting galore, their menu is looking better (and more unique!) than ever.

Food fans, grab your napkins and get ready for nine epic reasons why you need to be eating and drinking, African style, this summer.

#1: Whisky Chilli Corn… Hell Yes!

Okay, so anything doused in whisky is good in our books, but at polēpolē, it’s the whisky chilli corn that’s got our tongues in a twist. Freshly husked corn on the cob is served with goats milk, coconut, cricket and whisky chilli, and dipped in a delicious corn husk ash. Better yet, you get four pieces per serving, making it the perfect solution for a bar snack with a few mates. Grab a Savannah Dry South African apple cider from the bar, chill out with some African-inspired tunes, and get ready to taste some on-the-cob goodness.

#2: Get Messy With Octopus Injera

At polēpolē, the team are all about tapping into authentic African knowledge and giving it a Melbourne twist. Which is why the octopus injera (that’s an Ethiopian flatbread, a bit like a pancake) recipe is derived from a recipe created by chef Stolley’s, mum. These tasty bite size treats come in a trio with fresh lime and bring together everything that we’re loving about modern African cooking—freshness, spice, and eating with our hands.

#3: Try Savory Cigars

If you thought cigars only came from Cuba, think again. These tobacco-free tasty nibbles are the best—and most sharable—way to tuck into some African flavours without having to lift a fork. You’ll find a rotating selection of vegetarian and meat fillings, wrapped in Tunisian brik pastry and dipped in a salt-and-spice black ‘ash’, that taste like nothing we’ve tried before. An absolute must-eat that’s served in both polēpolē and Glamp, especially alongside a jug of the spiced rum Powder Island Iced Tea!

#4: Thirst-Quenching African Beer

A good friend of mine believes that you should choose your world beers depending on the weather: If it’s a freezing day, go for a hardy stout that’s been brewed in Ireland or Scotland, but if it’s a sunny afternoon, reach for something made in a hotter climate, because they’ll have perfected the art of thirst-quenching bevvies to a tee. Guys, this is a rule you should follow FOR LIFE, and is exactly why we’ll be sipping on crisp African beers at polēpolē and Glamp this summer. Also, just look at the labels! Where else can you order a lager endorsed by an elephant?!

For you adventurous beer drinkers, polēpolē keeps Phoenix Golden from Mauritius, White Cap Lager from Kenya, St George Lager from Ethiopia and Windhoek Draught from Namibia, all for under $10 a bottle—or a bargain $6 each before 7pm. Cheers!

#5, 6 & 7: Spiced Pork Ribs, Peanut Lamb Ribs, Honey Chicken Ribs…   Sooooo Many Ribs

Meat fans, listen up: Ribs are where it’s at when it comes to hearty dishes at polēpolē, and you can justify trying each and every dish on the menu, because they quite literally come in all shapes, sizes and seasonings.

The chicken ribs are a true thing of beauty. Topped with hummus, whipped cardamom honey, smoked dukkah and green shallots, they make for a finger-lickingly tasty share plate that we’d gladly eat for days. Chicken rib enthusiasts, I know you’re out there. Go here NOW.

So lamb’s your go-to? The guys at polēpolē are celebrating the meat that doesn’t discriminate with some sensational Tsire peanut spiced lamb ribs, served with a carrot and citrus salad and a slathering of garlic sauce.

But if you’re looking for the ultimate meaty indulgence, you can’t go past the berbere-rubbed pork belly, served with pineapple, drizzled buffalo yoghurt, and fried leek hay. Berbere itself is an Ethiopean spice mix that’s comprised of all of our favourite meat seasonings (chilli, garlic, ginger…), giving this pork belly all the crispy goodness that you’re used to, with an added flavour punch. Oh mama.

And if you fancy tucking onto all three, All You Can Meat Tuesdays are your life’s calling. For $39, you can let your appetite loose on all the meat you can muster, alongside some less-meaty but just as delicious side plates. Bookings recommended, obviously.

#8: Sip A Negroni With A Coffee Twist

The boozy bastard child of the Espresso Martini and the traditional Negroni, Glamp bar’s Wise And Shine is an absolute corker of a cocktail that shakes up a few measures of coffee-nitrous infused Tanqueray Gin, Campari, and Lillet Rosé vermouth, all served over ice. This drink, paired with Glamp’s jaw-dropping safari-style interior, complete with tent, life-size rhino and wildlife-inspired décor is enough to make taking a detour via this CBD bar worth it.

#9: Chew On Biltong

What on earth *is* biltong anyway? These dried, cured slices of Black Angus porterhouse are a well-loved African bar snack that’s got more flavour than your average bag of nuts. Polēpolē cure and season their own biltong meat on site, meaning you know it’s as fresh as the beer they’ve just popped in front of you. If you love your steak rare, but aren’t in need of a full 500g of it, this is the perfect plate to satisfy that craving. You’re welcome.

Polēpolē and Glamp both cater to larger parties, and take bookings.

Keen to book your table at polēpolē, or lock in cocktails at Glamp? Visit the website or call 03 9650 2811.

Editor's Note: This article is proudly sponsored by polēpolē and Glamp and endorsed by The Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image credit: Griffin Simm for The Urban List

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