You could drive past The Spot without batting an eye. It’s tucked underneath one of the new apartment developments at the top end of Nicholson St—a cosy little coffee klatch with a Middle Eastern twist. You can smell the Rumble coffee from the street...but there’s also a lemony twang of sumac on the air. The first sign that this place does things a little differently.
The Spot is the brainchild of Khalil Qubbaj and his wife Rim. It’s their first jump into the shark-infested waters of Melbourne’s hospo scene, but so far the signs are good. The cafe is building up a loyal local following, and Khalil is determined to spin some pretty interesting dishes: the home-cooked Middle Eastern fare he grew up eating as a kid.
“We do a Big Breakfast of course,” he says, “but we’ve also got a Mujudara that’s very popular. It’s my grandmother’s recipe.”
As with most specialty cafes, you’re kind of missing out if you come here and order the fried-egg-and-mushrooms-on-rye (the one exception is the chilli scramble, which we’ll get to later). Khalil has peppered the menu with some truly epic Middle Eastern dishes, bang-on for the Coburg location. Start the day with crispy house-made falafel, a signature recipe made from fava beans, rather than the usual chickpeas, and served with a mean sumac-dusted tahini. If you’re after a vegetarian stomach-stretcher, the Mujudara is bloody fantastic, slow-cooked spiced rice topped with caramelised onion, mint yogurt, poached egg and a fiery homemade harissa.
Khalil and his cooks prep everything themselves, from the flat bread right down to the hummus. And you can really taste the difference. The one ‘western’ dish we would recommend is the chilli scramble. It’s one of the best going around: a beautiful swirl of harissa-red scramble, topped with fanned avocado, edible flowers and a killer house-made labne. Spicy and soothing, all at the same time. It’s pretty nuts.
If a Middle Eastern brekky tickles your fancy, give The Spot a try. It’ll surprise you.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey-White