One of the most vibrant, spice-filled cuisines in the world—Middle Eastern fare is having a (well-deserved) moment in Melbourne. If you’re hunting for hummus or craving tabouleh, here are the 18 restaurants and cafes to hit.
A hidden gem running alongside the Yarra River, this Middle Eastern canteen serves vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly dishes alongside all your herby favourites. Mama’s Old Spice Rice is a crowd pleaser, while the Spiced Lamb Kofta and Chicken Ribs are perfect for a messy share-style feast. Pair it with cocktails like the Sabah’s Rosie Eye (a pomegranate and rosewater martini) because no-one has ever regretted a cocktail.
Feast Of Merit
One of the highlights on Swan Street, 100% of profits from Feast of Merit are donated towards helping the YGAP movement so there has never been a better excuse to chow through a lazy Sunday lunch. An all-day eatery, our pick is the Loubia style baked eggs with tomato, chachouka, tahini labneh and shoots.
Very Good Falafel
Friendly on the wallet and the eyes, everything on Very Good Falafel’s menu comes in under $15. Falafels, Sabih and Ktzizot are served on your choice of pita or plate, while salads and baba ganoush can come with or without extra falafel balls. Hint: get extra.
Plump, generously stuffed calamari with prawns and a wafer thin mushroom borek is reason enough to visit Camus. Pair it with silky seared scallops, Jerusalem artichoke and fried chillies or whole baked snapper with okra and chermoula, and invite your least hungry friends. Check out our full rundown of Camus here.
Start with some herbal, soul-warming mint tea in this beautifully decorated, spice-filled hidey-hole. Moroccan cakes, salads and rotating hot lunch options are on offer at this vibrant café. Takeaway, vegetarian and vegan dishes also abound, in case you’re in desperate need of some dietary-friendly choices.
Moroccan Soup Bar
An institution in Fitzroy, Moroccan Soup Bar is making a strong case as the best vegetarian Middle Eastern restaurant in Melbourne. The menu, presented verbally, is jam-packed with spiced, creamy, herby dishes. Most opt for one of the banquet options because there’s nothing more satisfying than a parade of dips, stews and bakes arriving at the table.
Wood-fired pizzas are getting redressed with Middle Eastern flavours at Mankoushe. Think saroukh three cheese with green olives pizza, or turk tomato sauce with in-house Turkish sausage, grilled pepper, babaganouj and fresh tomato. There is also a range of classics including haloumi pies and share-style dishes at dinnertime.
Salads, pita pockets and smoothies are all on offer at Tahina, but it’s the pocket-rocket, flavour-packed Shakshuka Platters we’ll be gunning for. With three options, Shakshuka Platters are little bombs of spice served with Israeli salad, spicy green salad, pickled cabbage, hummus, tahini and pita bread.
From the team behind Code Black Coffee, Tahini is the CBD brunch hotspot with a difference. Focusing on authentic, casual Lebanese food, you can expect lamb mince patties, breakfast tablieh’s (wraps) with scrambled eggs, beans and olives or soujouk sausages. Nom.
A must on any Middle Eastern hit-list, Maha’s share-style lunch is a tingle for the taste buds. Decadently rich dishes include the ox heart tomato kibbeh neya with za’atar and basil labneh, while Turkish lentil dumplings with carrot yoghurt, sweet peas, sumac and mint will likely dissipate off the plate. Better yet, choose the set-course menu and have the friendly team decide your dishes for you.
If you’re looking for traditional Lebanese dishes, look no further. From tart pickles to mouth-watering spiced lamb pastries (all handmade, by the by), the taste of Téta Mona might ruin all other Middle Eastern restaurants for you.
This unique South Yarra venue plays home to a rotating menu every four months. Dishing out Israeli food until April, four-course and six-course menus include the “smoked eggplant, pistachio, grilled vine leaves” and “sweetbread, chickpea and tomato”.
Visit A1 Bakery for the Halloumi cheese pie. Bring a tenner and some change for three.
A cosy Lebanese restaurant quietly on Elgin Street, nibble through pan-fried chicken livers dressed with garlic and lemon juice or “ladies’ fingers”, filo pastry cigars filled with minced lamb, pine nuts and spices. Better yet, bring your (generous, oh so generous) parents along and order one of the banquets.
You’ll struggle to find anything over $10 on Zaatar’s menu…unless you’re prepared to eat through the miniature feast that is six mezza options with dip. Spinach and cheese pies, meat pizzas and haloumi “zoccacias”—a focaccia crossed with zaatar bread—all come in at a change-worthy price.
Murrumbeena & Mornington
A monster grocery store with endless isles of seasoning, spices and hard-to-find Middle Eastern products, stop for the shop and stay for the food. The Mayweather wrap is a must-try. With grilled kafta, tabouli, lettuce, hommus nad Oasis Chip Dip—you’ll soon be eating them shamefully in wee morning.
Sharing means there’s more room for food at Rumi. Choose your own foodie adventure with options like king prawns with lemon myrtle salt, quail kebabs with pickled green chilli and Iranian hot and sour seafood khoresht.
There’s no need to be coy at Köy Restaurant with their banquet 7-course feast running on the first and last Wednesday of every month. Leave room for some rib-sticking apple and sultana cinnamon spiced borek with ice-cream and caramel.
Need to whet your whistle after some delicious middle-eastern fare? Try these 5 news bars.
Image credit: Griffin Simm