Seventeen years after bringing us the matchless Moroccan Soup Bar, Hana Assafiri continues to go her own way at her new Brunswick East café
Can Hana Assafiri do no wrong? Melbourne’s best known Moroccan matron and Time Out Melbourne’s 2015 Legend Award recipient has capitalised on her cult following to draw diners to her latest venture, Moroccan Deli-cacy. It's no coincidence that the East Brunswick space was formerly the well-loved Miramar Nut Shop, which was owned by Lebanese brothers Mohammed and Hussein El Ayoubi. Assafiri has preserved a number of fixtures from the 30-year business, so that tubs of nuts and spices line the walls around the brightly painted corner café. Middle Eastern pantry staples like rosewater and pomegranate molasses are stacked overhead, giving the illusion that diners are sitting in a souk (market) shop in Morocco.
Service at Deli-cacy is much like what diners have come to expect from Moroccan Soup Bar: there’s no written menu, so you get what the kitchen’s cooked on the day. As usual, everything is vegetarian and Assafiri’s waitstaff are mindful of allergies and food intolerances.
If you tend to struggle with menu choices, the lack thereof could be a good thing; Hana knows what’s good for you. For breakfast, the option is sweet or savoury. You've chosen sweet? You might get the beghrir – the slightly sour yeasted Moroccan pancakes that come with a rich toasted almond butter that seeps into the air bubbles, as well as caramelised stone fruit and a side of yoghurt and jam. The savoury option will likely be a spicy shakshouka (baked egg) dish, which gains points for the substantial addition of ful medames (the Middle East’s answer to baked beans) but loses a tick for the firmness of what should be runny yolk on our visit.
The mounds of marinated olives, pickles, and salads piled on tagines in the display cabinet at the back of the café is a pretty good indication of what you’ll get in your mix plate for lunch. A typical combo is a crispy slice of haloumi, felafel fried to perfection, a dollop of silky hummus or babaganoush, a tagine-baked chickpea dish similar to the famous Moroccan Soup Bar staple, turnip and gherkin pickles, a lentil and rice salad and a piece of bread to mop up the delicious slick of spiced oil, lane and dip at the end. Instagram-friendly it isn't, but your tastebuds won’t care when the combination of textures and no-holds-barred flavours come together.
Coming in for afternoon tea? Your options are mint tea and nous nous coffee (half coffee, half milk), which will come with buttery Moroccan cookies like the date-filled mamoul and cigar-like Zainab’s Fingers. At a time when food trends come and go, the constant reliability of Assafiri’s menu is as comforting as coming home, even if your home didn’t have tagines blazing away in the kitchen.
|Venue name:||Moroccan Deli-cacy (closed)|
313 Lygon St
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sun 9am-5pm|