Jamie’s Italian

107 Pitt Street
Sydney, NSW
(02) 8240 9000
jamiesitalian.com.au

This new wave of ‘no bookings’ restaurants drives me bonkers. If you’ve ever stood in a queue snaking down the stairs and around the corner from Melbourne hotspots like Mamasita or Chin Chin while your stomach attempts to eat itself, you can probably understand where I’m coming from. And even if you are more likely to score a table closer to bed time than dinner time, nine times out of ten, I’d rather try my luck elsewhere and call it a day.

The one person I will make an exception for, though, is Jamie Oliver. Well, the closest thing we get to him in Australia, anyway. Jamie’s Italian was a non-negotiable on our list of Sydney restaurants to hit up. I’d heard rave reviews and knew I’d regret not going more than the inevitable wait. Having spent most of the day down at Bondi, G and I rocked up at peak hour but were delighted to find that the queue wasn’t as long as we had imagined. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly; we were shuffling forward at a consistent pace and there were free nibbles to keep us waiting patrons happy.

By the time we got to the front of the queue, I was so giddy with excitement that I almost missed the front of house casually mention that we had a two-hour wait ahead of us. Say what?! Yep. Two hours. Apparently 170 other eager beavers had beaten us to the chase that night. I vaguely remember leaving my name and number, before stumbling out in a daze.

We found ourselves walking all the way to Chinatown, and spent the next two hours at the night markets. We ended up getting so distracted by the festivities (and the dude in the panda suit) that I realised I had missed a call from an unknown number. Nooo, I thought, as my stomach made a weird churning sound. There is no way in hell I’m waiting another two hours to eat dinner. Frantically, I tried to find a number for Jamie’s, but to no avail. On an impulse, G and I jumped into a taxi and made our way back downtown to the restaurant. I had some sort of pleading speech halfway made up and was ready to blurt it out to the front of house so he’d take pity on us. Instead he asked, “What was the name under?” And before we knew it, we were being led to our table. Insert fist pump here 😀

Drinking on an empty stomach probably wasn’t the best idea, but we saw the cocktail menu and couldn’t resist! G ordered an ultra refreshing mojito (14.0) and I ordered a Tuscan Sunset (16.5); a concoction of Frangelico, tequila and lemonade. The tequila kick made me extra chatty that night 😉

Mojito (14.0), Tuscan Sunset (16.5)

The complimentary Italian bread selection (housemade rosemary focaccia, carta di musica, ciabatta and breadsticks served with extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic) took a while to get to us, but was delightful regardless.

Complimentary Italian bread selection

A friend of mine who went up to Sydney earlier this year recommended we get the polenta chips (8.5) – and for good reason. The chips were crispy little golden nuggets of perfection. The addition of the rosemary salt and parmesan gave the polenta a bit of lift – perhaps a little heavy on the salt, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Crispy polenta chips with rosemary salt and parmesan (8.5)

G was eyeing the courgette fritto (12.5) – a ricotta and mozzarella stuffed zucchini flower with rocket pesto and roasted tomatoes – so we ordered that to start as well. The cheesy insides of the zucchini flower went so well with the freshness of the pesto. Jamie certainly has a knack for throwing simple flavours together and making them shine.

Courgette fritti – ricotta and mozzarella stuffed zucchini flowers with rocket pesto and roasted tomatoes (12.5)

The only downside to the menu at Jamie’s is that it makes you want to order EVERYTHING. We eventually decided we couldn’t go past the pasta. Fresh pasta is made on the premises every day. Of course, it isn’t your average pasta menu. Even the spag bol sounds fancy. G went for the buffalo ricotta ravioli (21.0), which went hand in hand with her mojito. The intense lemon and mint sauce cut through the creaminess of the ricotta beautifully.

Buffalo ricotta ravioli (21.0)

Wanting to see what all the fuss was about, I ordered the truffle tagliatelle (24.0) and popped my truffle cherry that night. The first few bites were heaven; the nutmeg, parmesan and butter sauce was unlike anything I’d ever had before. And the truffle – well, it’s hard to describe how a truffle tastes because it’s a quite a rarity, as far as food goes. I kept thinking it was going to taste like a mushroom because it kinda looked like one, but it didn’t. Unfortunately, it was such a full-bodied dish that I could barely get through half of it. I should have ordered a side salad or something because the house bread only served to mop up the incredibly rich flavours of the dish. Still, I can’t say I regret ordering it.

Truffle tagliatelle (24.0)

We were so stuffed, we couldn’t even fathom the thought of dessert after our mains. Instead, we joked about having to roll to each other out the door and relished the fact that the two-hour wait had definitely been worth it. Service, we noted, was lovely despite the late hour. But most importantly, the food was fabulous. It was simple, honest and full of flavour – the way food should be.

Jamie's Italian on Urbanspoon

Advertisements

The Tea Room, QVB

455 George St
Level 2, Queen Victoria Building
Sydney, NSW 2000
(02) 9283 7279
thetearoom.com.au

I usually try to steer clear of anything excessively girly or swarming with snooty society matrons, but I think I may have found a reason to set my prejudices aside. High tea may be archaic and elitist and pretentious, but at the end of the day you get a cake stand filled with miniature desserts and sandwiches with the crusts cut off for you. What’s not to like? 😉 G and I have been itching to try out high tea for a while now, and thought it would be a great idea to pencil it in for our trip to Sydney. After a bit of research and some blog-trawling, we settled on The Tea Room at the beautiful Queen Victoria Building and booked ourselves a mid-morning session.

From the intricate details in the ceiling to the Royal Albert china doled out during service, The Tea Room is all class and whisks you away to a different time where bustling kitchens and harried waiters are non-existent. Of course, it was all we could do not to let a few high-pitched squeals loose/jump around like lunatics/make passing comments with truly awful British accents, but somehow we managed to keep it together.

Seated at a table by one of the windows, we were greeted with views of the Pyrmont Bridge and a menu with a kickass tea selection. If you’re something of a tea whiz and don’t mind paying a little extra, there’s also a ‘tea for connoisseurs’ range. We settled on a pot of the Wokou Garden (6.0), an organic green tea “carefully handcrafted to accentuate the delicate sweetness of spring.” It had a very mild but pleasant flavour that complemented our afternoon tea well.

Wokou Garden (6.0)

Speaking of, The Tea Room offers a number of afternoon tea packages, including sparkling wine (44.0), cocktail (51.0), champagne (57.0) and gluten-free options. Not caring much for intoxicating substances so early in the day, we went with the traditional afternoon tea (39.0). One can expect to pay a little more on weekends.

The scones that arrived shortly at our table were absolutely mammoth! No complaints here, though – they were the bomb diggity. Warm and soft on the inside, with a slightly crunchy exterior – I couldn’t fault them even if I tried. Of course, what’s a scone without strawberry preserve and cream? If I were stuck on a desert island with only one thing to sustain me, these would top the list without a doubt. 🙂

Equally delicious were the polenta and truffle oil tartlets; the combination of the smooth, creamy polenta and the richness of the truffle oil was so, so good. I could snack on those bad boys all day. The only drawback was the fact that they were tiny! The finger sandwiches were good, but nothing special compared to the rest of the spread. The shaved ham and roquette number was quite tasty, but the tuna and tomato not so much.

After clearing the second tier, we switched to dessert mode and set our sights on the top tier petit fours; a sticky citrus and almond cupcake, a fruit and custard tart and a mini opera gateau, all of which were unbearably cute. Almost too cute to eat! The opera gateau was superb; it tasted like tiramisu minus the coffee, which I quite liked. The mint chocolate garnish emblazoned with the crest was a nice touch.

We were surprisingly full by this stage, but the bottom tier beckoned. The pistachio macarons were a bit of a letdown; there was no pistachio flavour whatsoever and they were super sweet. The lemon meringue boats and passionfruit melting moments, however, more than made up for the macaron faux pas. Not to mention we’d already had our fair share of macarons the day before, so we weren’t too fussed.

All things considered, our first afternoon tea experience has probably set the bar high for all future afternoon tea experiences. I can’t praise The Tea Room enough; the service was top-notch and the food was sensational. 🙂

The Tea Room, Queen Victoria Building on Urbanspoon

Adriano Zumbo

Shop 1A, 40 East Esplanade
Manly, NSW 2095
(02) 9810 7318
adrianozumbo.com

If you’re ever in Sydney and looking for something to while the afternoon away, hop on a Manly-bound ferry down at Circular Quay. For a $14 return ticket, the 30-minute journey gives you some of the city’s best views. Make sure you get a seat out on the front deck and soak up some sunshine along the way!

G and I were incredibly lucky to fly in on a perfect 33 degree day and we couldn’t think of anything better to do with our afternoon than kicking it on the beach. We weren’t meaning to stop by the Manly edition of Adriano Zumbo’s macaron enterprise as we knew a certain dessert train was waiting for us to hop on at The Star, but then again, how could we not? 😉

We spent a good ten minutes walking up and down East Esplanade on the hunt for the infamous Zumbarons. I even dug out my phone and started following the moving blue dot on Google maps only to find ourselves staring at a brick wall. Long story short, look for the kayak rental store across the road from the Manly Wharf Hotel – Zumbo’s patisserie in the back.

We walked in with the intention of buying three or four, so naturally we ended up walking out with nine or ten. Clearly, my resolve is a little shaky when it comes to these bite-sized beauties. If macarons aren’t your thing, the Manly store also carries a number of cakes, pastries and tarts to tickle your pickle. Not a croquembouche in sight, though 😦

There’s a seating area next door, but we ended up taking them down to Chinatown to the pier and downed them like fish and chips.

G and I had a blast taste testing each macaron! The flavours were so distinct, I could have blindfolded myself and named them all accordingly. My favourite one by far was the Salted Butter Popcorn. It was like reaching into a real bucket of popcorn, but so much better. The sweet, marshmallow-esque filling complemented the slightly salty, popcorn-coated macaron shells like a dream. The Malted Milkshake came in at a close second. The vibrant turquoise and shimmery exterior was a little counter-intuitive, but the malty flavour was certainly there. Yum. We also picked up a Salt and Vinegar Zumbaron on a whim, which wasn’t nearly half as disgusting as I imagined it would be 🙂 The balsamic was very pronounced, but not overwhelmingly so. Definitely one to try if you’re up for something a little different!

From left to right: Malted Milkshake, Pineapple & Lime, Peach Iced Tea, Salted Butter Caramel, Choc Mint, Salted Butter Popcorn, Musk, Chocolate Doughnut, Lamington (2.5 each)

If you’d asked me what a macaron was three years ago, I probably would have pointed you in the direction of some French car model or obscure article of clothing. Thanks largely to Adriano Zumbo, though, macarons are now something of an institution in Australia. I take my hat off to him – the guy is a mastermind when it comes to crazy, innovative flavours and insanely beautiful desserts.

Adriano Zumbo on Urbanspoon

Chat Thai

Level 6, Westfield Sydney
188 Pitt St Mall
Sydney, NSW 2000
(02) 9221 0600
chatthai.com.au

How can it be November already? Seriously, how? October has been one of those blink-and-you-miss-it months. Consequently, I’m only just latching onto the fact that The Hunger Pangs has been looking a little abandoned as of late. And not because things have been ho-hum on the food front. Actually, my calorie intake over the last few weeks has been off the chain (good thing I renewed my gym membership), so I now have a mountain of photos and random notes floating around on my Mac to round up and somehow make sense of.

Anyhoo, fellow foodie G and I have been talking about a trip to Sydney for as long as I can remember, but up until last week, our timing had always been off. As soon as we saw the small window of opportunity arise, though, we pounced, booked ourselves on the next flight out and strapped ourselves in for a whirlwind of food and fun.

We flew in pretty early, so even after the airport shuttle bus ride from hell (our driver was a maniac, my butt still hurts from flying over those airport speed bumps), we had some time to kill before we could check into our hotel. We ambled down to Westfield on Pitt Street and made for Chat Thai, one of the million places on our ‘to visit’ list.

Our hearts sank as we peered into the full house, mostly suits loosening up their ties and splitting from the office for lunch. The only seats available were at one of the communal tables. Communal dining is a concept that I have yet to warm to. I don’t know about you, but I find it really awkward. Sure enough, when we squeezed our way through the crowded restaurant to sit opposite an Asian couple, they shot each other an ‘oh no they didn’t’ look as we took our seats. And I could practically feel their gaze sear through me as soon as I dug my camera out and started snapping away. Good times.

I ordered my usual lemon, lime and bitters but immediately let out an inward sob as soon as they brought out G’s ice blended watermelon juice (and again as two lychee stunners made their way to the table next to us). G was gracious enough to let me have a sip, but if I were her, I would have told me to get my own!  It was super pretty and delicious to boot; the perfect drink to have down at the beach or poolside.

Blended watermelon juice (5.0), lemon, lime and bitters (4.0)

Did I mention their menu is a beast? It’s so long, they had it bound and illustrated. We started off with a few of the satay chicken skewers (2.5 each). The crunch of the peanuts and the juicy morsels of chicken coated in a killer sauce amounted to nothing short of awesome. They were even better when dipped in the cucumber, garlic and chilli infused vinegar on the side.

Chicken satay skewers (2.5 each)

My chicken pad thai (12.5) was good, but not the best I’ve had. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have ordered it because I have outrageously high expectations when it comes to pad thai. You know when you try something for the first time and it’s so mind-blowing that the next time you try it (and each time after that) it never measures up to that first time? That’s me in a nutshell. Sidebar, Derby Thai does a mean pad thai. 😉 Anyhow, the ratio of noodles to chicken here was way off (too many noodles, not enough chicken) and the tamarind paste was sadly lost in amongst the strong fish and soy sauce flavours.

Chicken pad thai (12.5)

After some deliberation, G went with the stir-fried crisp pork belly, fresh chilli and holy basil (13.5). To G’s delight, the pork belly was indeed crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside, but the more she chowed down, the spicier it got, so it was a wee bit of a struggle to get through in the end. It was still a great dish, nonetheless.

Stir-fried crisp pork belly, fresh chilli and holy basil, with fried egg and rice (13.5)

While it may not be on par with Chin Chin or Cookie, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that Chat Thai would be a massive hit with Melburnians. At the rate Mamak is going right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did bring it here. I, for one, hope they do. It was cheap, tasty and authentic Thai fare that I would happily go back for.

Chat Thai Westfield Sydney on Urbanspoon

Mart 130

107 Canterbury Rd
Middle Park, VIC 3206
(03) 9690 8831

The past few months have been a blur of brunches. Waffles, bacon, mushrooms, eggs –  in each of their delicious manifestations – you name it, I’ve had it. After a while, though, the memory bank tends to haze over and that completely decent but not outstanding dish from that one time becomes exactly that – vague and nameless.

Mart 130’s corn fritters will most likely be etched into the cornices of my brain for the rest of time. Just putting it out there. 🙂

C and I rocked up to the Route 96 tram stop for a bite to eat late Tuesday morning. Why Mart 130, you ask? Mart (upon thoroughly examining the sign out front) is tram spelled backwards and 130 is the number of the tram stop. Now there’s a name you won’t forget!

We traipsed into the quirky station turned café and were welcomed by cheery greetings all round before we were seated in the corner booth of the sun deck. The Mart 130 vibe is relaxed but in amongst a flurry of activity, with the St Kilda-bound tram departing every once in a while on one side and the jovial banter at the Middle Park tennis club on the other.

Our waiter was a hoot and managed to crack a joke or two in between taking our drink orders. My chai latte was nicely spiced and dusted with cinnamon sugar – win! C went with her daily dose of caffeine; a skinny latte. Due to a complete lack of tact, I forgot to note drink prices, but if I had to hazard a guess, they were both around the $4-4.50 mark.

Chai latte, latte

Mart 130’s menu is a real beaut, with classy but unpretentious dishes to tickle everybody’s pickle. Their famed oven-roasted corn fritters with grilled bacon, tomato relish, sour cream and coriander (18.9) had my mouth watering before we had even arrived. I dug into the impressive stack and felt my tastebuds do the running man/play the air guitar/raise the roof. The fritters were fluffy, but also densely packed with sweet corn kernels that absolutely exploded with flavour. Paired with the streaky, salty bacon and zingy tomato relish, this dish was killer.

Oven-roasted corn fritters with grilled bacon, tomato relish, sour cream and coriander (18.9)

C had her eye on about three different things, but eventually succumbed to the other, equally delicious-sounding corn fritter option with smoked salmon, beetroot relish, crème fraiche and cucumber, dill and lemon salsa (18.9). The salmon was smoked beautifully and, teamed with the zesty freshness of the salsa, went down the hatch like a treat. C was happy to report that while they weren’t as good as her mum’s corn fritters (when are they ever?), they could definitely give them a run for their money.

Oven-roasted corn fritters with smoked salmon, beetroot relish, crème fraiche, topped with a cucumber, dill and lemon salsa (18.9)

We couldn’t help but ogle the three-tiered sweet stand as were paying, and being the suckers we are, we scooped up a few of their yoyos on our way out (3.0 each). Like the corn fritters, these were in a whole other league from some of the crummier versions I’ve had in the past. Absolute buttery, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

Big ups to the team at Mart 130 for service, atmosphere and – most importantly – incredible food! I’m already itching to go back and blitz my way through everything else on the menu. 😀

Mart 130 on Urbanspoon

Vanilla bean panna cotta with raspberry coulis

With all the amazing weather Melbourne has been getting lately (well, up until today, anyway), I thought it was fitting to rustle up a summery dessert on my day off. A little while back, my sister was harping on about the best panna cotta she had ever tasted at Emporio Della Pasta. I’d never tried making panna cotta before and I was looking to one up the crème brulee gods after a recent attempt that went south and failed to set properly. So I figured why not? 🙂

I used a recipe from the ever trusty Taste website and after giving it a quick once-over, I decided it was a hell of a lot more straightforward than the crème brulee recipe I had followed. Plus, panna cotta’s such a versatile dessert, that you can change it up however you like. I chose to go down the classic vanilla bean and berry route, but you can use anything from chocolate to coffee to any of your favourite liqueurs – whatever floats your boat.

Ingredients

1 & ½ cups (375ml) pouring cream

1 & ½ cups (375ml) milk

1 vanilla pod (I used 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste)

½ cup (115g) caster sugar

2 &1/2 tsp gelatine powder

Vegetable oil

Mixed berries, to serve

Method

Pour milk and cream into a saucepan. Split vanilla bean in half, scrape seeds out and add both to the milk and cream mixture. Alternatively, add a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste. Much less fiddly and equally effective! 🙂

Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.

Remove vanilla bean from the saucepan if necessary. Add caster sugar and return to a low heat. Stir mixture until sugar dissolves. A good way to check is to scrape the bottom of the saucepan with a wooden spoon – the sugar tends to collect there otherwise.

Fill a small heatproof bowl or measuring cup with 2 tbs of boiling water and add gelatine powder. Place bowl or cup into a small saucepan filled with boiling water and stir gelatine mixture until it dissolves and forms a gel-like consistency. Cool slightly and then stir into the cream mixture.

Sidebar – if you’ve never used gelatine powder before, whatever you do, don’t take whiff out of curiosity! That stuff is nasty! But don’t worry – it won’t compromise your panna cotta or any other dessert you’re trying to set.

Lightly oil 6 dariole moulds or ramekins – this will make it easier for you to turn the panna cottas out later. Pour cream mixture into moulds or ramekins and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours. I left mine in the fridge overnight to allow for more setting time.

Once the panna cottas have set, run a sharp knife around the edge of the mould or ramekin to break the seal. If you’re having trouble getting them out, place them in a shallow bath of boiling water for 10-20 seconds. Place a serving plate on top of mould or ramekin, flip and tap firmly to release.

Trust me on this – there is nothing more satisfying than the little schloop you hear as you turn your panna cottas out. 😀

I’ve had some frozen raspberries sitting in my freezer for ages, so I decided to make a raspberry coulis to jazz things up a bit. It was so easy to make, I am considering blindfolding myself and tying one hand behind my back the next time I make it. 😉

Ingredients

500g of frozen raspberries

1/3 cup caster sugar

Method

Place raspberries and caster sugar into a saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until mixture starts to bubble. Remove from heat and crush raspberries with the back of a wooden spoon to a fine pulp.

Pass raspberry mixture through a sieve until only the seeds are left.

And…that’s pretty much all there is to it. You can store the coulis in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

To serve

Pour raspberry coulis over panna cotta and top with mixed berries.

I was so stoked with how these turned out! If you’re after a super simple, fail-safe dessert that’s easy on the eye and on the wallet, this is it. Bring on summer! 😀

– Erika x

Trunk Diner

275 Exhibition Street
Melbourne CBD, VIC 3000
(03) 9663 7994
trunktown.com.au

I seem to have picked up a few (potentially infuriating) habits since I started blogging. For instance, I am now the friend that will make you wait that extra excruciating minute for your food while I snap photos of said food from every angle humanly possible. Even when your insides are howling at you in protest, I will swat your hand away and say, “just one more shot!” Yeah, I’m that friend. Apologies in advance to all future dining companions.

Lucky for me, fellow foodie G has proved to be immune to all such exasperating mannerisms. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we trekked into the city for lunch on Saturday afternoon. Even for the directionally challenged like us, Trunk is pretty easy to find. It’s a short walk from Melbourne Central or Parliament station, a couple of doors down from Miss Chu.

I gotta say, the service was a little lax that day. After hovering awkwardly around the doorway to the diner waiting for someone to guide us to a table, we ended up taking ourselves to a seat towards the rear. We had to ask for a menu when we weren’t given one AND our waiter forgot to come back and take our order. He did apologise profusely, though, so all was forgiven.

Trunk’s diner menu is simple but a definite crowd-pleaser. You can expect everything from buttermilk fried chicken and home style potato salad to hot dogs with all the trimmings and everything in between. Trunk Restaurant & Bar is open from 12 on weekdays and 3 on weekends if you’re after something a little more upscale.

G and I could tell we were in for a calorie overload of a day as soon we zeroed in on the mega milkshakes (8.0 each). I’ve been obsessed with Golden Gaytimes ever since I saw Christine Manfield’s version on the MasterChef finale earlier this year, so the Golden Gaytime in milkshake form was a no-brainer. Our waiter even applauded our choice of beverage. We also gave the Tim Tam Slam a go, because resistance was futile. Calories, schmalories. They were totally worth it. 😉

Tim Tam Slam (8.0), Golden Gaytime (8.0)

What better to go with a milkshake than a burger? The Burger, to be precise – 175g of freshly ground Wagyu beef patty on grilled brioche, with baby cos lettuce, sliced tomato, Spanish onions and house made pickles (10.0). The name itself is pretty ominous-sounding. There I was jiggling in my seat envisaging this epic burger and…out came its mini-me edition. My initial thought was: Hold up. I’m paying $10 for this?! I cooled my jets and dialled back on the scepticism. It was a Wagyu beef burger, after all. And once I pieced together the deconstructed ingredients, it didn’t look half bad. It didn’t taste half bad, either. The meat was juicy and pink at the centre, the cheese was oozy and, paired with the rest of the provided accompaniments, made for a ripper burger.

The Burger (10.0) + cheddar (1.5), large fries (6.0)

The fries were a welcome sight in my state of post-burger shock, but they were super salty. We had to douse them in the condiments on hand, which packed a punch, even in small doses. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to the spicy stuff.

G went with one of the quesadillas on offer, filled with shredded poached chicken, cheddar, roasted red peppers, tomato, coriander, spring onion and salsa picante verde (10.0). The salsa had my eyes watering after a bit, and while those impervious to habanero chilies might think otherwise, it was one of the more dominating flavours of the dish.

Shredded poached chicken, cheddar, roasted red peppers, tomato, coriander, spring onion and salsa picante verde quesadillas (10.0)

We slurped down the dregs of our milkshakes and decided to call it a day. Even though first impressions weren’t stellar, flavour and fun came through and won us over in the end. For diner classics with a modern twist, head on down to T-Town . 🙂

Trunk Diner on Urbanspoon

Rumi

116 Lygon Street
Brunswick East, VIC 3057
(03) 9388 8255
rumirestaurant.com.au

Venture down the dingiest of Chinatown’s alleyways and it’ll lead you to some of the best dumplings you’ll ever have the pleasure of devouring. Walk into any of the phõ houses on Richmond’s Victoria Street precinct and lap up broth so delicious you’ll want to be swimming in it. And then there’s Lygon Street, where gelato comes in flavours you couldn’t make up in your dizziest daydreams.

Point is, one of the best things about Melbourne is the fact that it’s a melting pot of a floppity jillion different cultures. You can’t find, say, Lebanese cuisine just anywhere. The thought crossed my mind as I met two of my good friends, A and M, for dinner on Sunday night at Rumi. Which, coincidentally, is also on Lygon Street. 🙂

I followed the cute Moroccan lanterns and Arabic wall scrawl to my seat. I was running ten minutes late, as per usual (you can’t expect anything less from me, really, it’s in my Filipino blood), so A and M had already given the menu a once-over by the time I got there. I spied a few ingredients I wasn’t familiar with, which was exciting. Most of the dishes appeared to be sharing plates.

Rumi boasts an impressive wine list, reminiscent of Middle Eastern and Australian influences, but bearing in mind how wine tends to mess with my head and the long drive home, I opted for a bottle of pomegranate juice instead.

Pomegranate juice (4.0)

Our server was remarkably attentive and walked us through the menu like a pro. We kicked things off with the sigara boregi, pastry cigars filled with haloumi, feta and kasseri (12.5). They were great starters; they weren’t too oily and the trio of cheeses was a lovely blend of rich, salty flavours.

Sigara boregi (12.5)

Next up, we had the oven-baked baby snapper fillet with tahini, muhammara, soft herbs and walnuts (22.5). It was a small serve, but hot damn, it was worth every cent. The snapper was cooked perfectly. The tangy tahini sauce gave the fish extra zip without overpowering it, while the herbs and walnuts added colour and texture. And made it look extra pretty. 🙂

Oven-baked baby snapper fillet with tahini, muhammara, soft herbs and walnuts (22.5)

We followed this up with the freekeh salad (or the freakin’ salad, as we liked to refer to it, 14.0) – of almonds, ewe’s milk feta and pomegranate dressing. Texturally, it was grainy, a little like quinoa or barley. In spite of being unlike any other salad I’ve ever had before, it was super tasty and went nicely with our spiced lamb shoulder (23.0). The shoulder itself was wonderfully tender. With a simple prod, the meat fell off the bone and when we drizzled the sweet sirkanjabin syrup over the top, we just about toppled off our seats in fits of joy. So. Good.

Freekeh salad with almonds, ewe’s milk feta and pomegranate dressing (14.0)

Spiced lamb shoulder with sirkanjabin (23.0)

We were all comfortably full by this stage, but I’m not one to shy away from a dessert menu so we decided to end the night on a sweet note. The almond pudding (10.5) was delightful, lifted by the crunch of the pistachios and the bursts of sweetness provided by the barberries. The Persian fairy floss (6.0) was also on our hit list – I’ve always wanted to try it! It wasn’t sickly sweet like ordinary fairy floss and had a unique, almost nutty flavour to it, which I loved.

Almond milk pudding with barberries and pistachios (10.5), Persian fairy floss (6.0)

We walked out of Rumi with bellies filled and palates slightly more cultured. If you’re up for something a little different with a mellow vibe and killer menu, look no further. Rumi satisfies on all three counts 🙂

Rumi on Urbanspoon