When it comes to gathering your nearest and dearest, and stuffing them full of the sort of food that will have you coming back for thirds, never mind seconds, you can’t beat a Middle Eastern feast. With sharing plates at the centre of this booming food culture, we’ve been scouring Melbourne’s streets for a restaurant that combines contemporary style with traditional cooking. And, at the end of Central Pier, Shed 9 on Harbour Esplanade, Docklands, we’ve found our winter haven: Meet Mama Rumaan, Melbourne’s latest Middle Eastern kitchen to offer spit roast meat, mouth-watering mezze and open-air shisha.
Never heard of this Mama? A new addition to Melbourne’s dining scene, Mama Rumaan opened earlier this year with a menu that spans everything from fragrant nibbles, to juicy meat skewers, to halva desserts. The new Melbourne restaurant serves up lunch and dinner every day except Monday, and is all about heart-warming cooking that leaves nobody hungry. Add waterside views, a stunning contemporary interior, and a heated outdoor area, and you’re looking at a Docklands dining destination that needs to be on your foodie radar for some epic winter eats.
The array of Arabic-inspired dishes on offer borrows from owners, Hatem Saleh’s and Rob Daniels’ mothers’ family recipes, with a handful of contemporary twists, meaning that you’re chowing down on the best of old and new-style Arabic cooking. The Mama Rumaan menu is divided into a variety of sharing plates and sides, ranging from snackable nibbles such as lightly battered and fried cauliflower served with tahini (aka the ultimate beer snack that’s one of your five daily veggies), to filling seasoned rice dishes, to piping hot chicken ribs topped with pomegranate molasses and homemade garlic sauce. There’s a hearty selection of grilled meats and veggies, all of which are house-spiced or marinated, and served with traditional sauces that really get your tastebuds popping. And, if you’re seriously hungry, talk to Mama about her meat spit roast, which is available for pre-order for larger groups.
An absolute stand-out for you carnivores has to be the lamb kibbeh—wheat-coated lamb parcels—which come with mint and cucumber yoghurt. Seriously, put a platter of these in front of us and we could nibble on them for days. Likewise with the mezze platter of hummus, baba ghanoush, jajik and lightly fried pitta bread. Winter should basically be about living off drool-worthy dips and hot, pan-fried breads, right?
If you have a penchant for the sweeter things in life, you’ll want to save room for the desserts too. Here, the traditional route is the way to go. While the chocolate pot served with tahini, caramel, baby figs and halva ice cream is a sure-fire chocoholic’s dream, it’s the Mama Tatiana’s Knafeh—a warm sweet semolina, rosewater, pistachio and syrup concoction that’s part crème caramel, part pastry, all 100% delicious—that had us begging Mama for another serve.
Mama Rumaan’s cocktail menu is one of the jewels in this exotic lady’s crown. The drinks were designed by award-winning bar tender, David Debattista, in collaboration with Mama’s own kitchen team, making for some interesting flavour combos that have reignited our love of fancier drinks. If you’re sick of sipping on standard bevvies and are in need of something that’s refreshingly different, the Sabah’s Rosie Eye is a Middle Eastern twist on a gin martini. Made using Edgerton pink gin, pomegranate juice and rosewater, this is definitely one for you floral fans out there. Looking for something a little more warming for Winter? Mama’s Old Fashioned combines the Rum Diary’s house spiced rum with black walnut bitters in a cocktail that is guaranteed to heat you from the inside out.
After you’ve eaten, it’s all too easy to pay the bill, drain your glass, and feel like you’ve let the night end a little too soon. Whether you’re in for a Sunday session, or catching up with mates over a post-work feed, some shisha in the heated outdoor bar area makes for the perfect excuse to order another round and let the good times roll.
Maybe you’re a falafel fan. Maybe you’d kill for some kofta. Or maybe you’re wondering what all the fuss is about a style of cooking that you’re yet to tuck into. If you’re late to Melbourne’s Middle Eastern party and need an excuse to wrap your mouth around some of the best harissa–seasoned food in the three thousands, give this Mama a call and lock in a date at her dining table.
Mama Rumaan also serves fantastic lunch dishes as well as take-away food. For the full menu, check out Mama Rumaan’s listing in our directory.
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Image credit: Mama Rumaan