Little Khartoum Arcade/The Footscray Hub. Phone: 0401 008 957
The signs at either end – one on Nicholson St, the other on Albert St – still describe it as The Footscray Hub “Business Centre” – but in some quarters at least it is known as Little Khartoum Arcade.
Walking through it has become one of the “secret” treasures of living in the west.
There are money transfer places, shops selling T-shirts and cosmetic products, others with perfumes and spices – and even a few old-style barber establishments, one that recently gave me a fine haircut.
All of it speaks of Footscray’s African diaspora with a relaxed and “we belong” vibe.
The only disappointment for me has been the lack of an eatery from which to chow down and enjoy the great atmosphere.
I walked past the only place selling food many times, but was unimpressed by scant display of large samosas – sambusas in African parlance – so ambled on, bound ususally for Babylon or some other food place.
Than I heard a whisper that more substantial fare was available from Amin Cafe for the asking. I think I heard this very valuable information from Ms Baklover of Footscray Food Blog, but have been unable to find proof in either emails or blogs.
In any case, thanks!
For this information inspired me to inquire – with happy results.
After a brief discussion with the welcoming proprietor – yes, I am hungry, yes meat and rice will be fine – I am served with a meal that, no surprise, was familiar from our delicious forays to another Somalian refuge, Safari Restaurant in Ascot Vale.
My $12.50 lunch had some pan-fried lamb (halib) that looked a little gray and lacklustre, but was fine and tender. Also on board was a terrific chicken drumstick (doora), slightly coated with bread crumbs and seasoned. And there were some lettuce and tomato for colour and crunch.
But the star was the rice – as with so many of our experiences with north African and Middle Eastern food.
This was magic – but magic of a minimalist kind.
No sultanas, strands of fried onion, peas, almonds or other colour – just the odd bit of translucent onion and perfect rice, cooked in chicken stock with some lemon pepper and a seasoning mix called Zacin.
All my lunch was very mildly seasoned, but a small plastic tub of a fiery chilli condiment helped kick things along.
There are only three small tables at Amin Cafe, but they’re all taken as I enjoy my meal – all by what appear to be regulars.
As well, there was a steady trade from what I take to be similarly frequent customers for the sambusas – either lamb or fish – so I buy two for my next day’s work lunch. Even cold they’re good – lamb in one, canned tuna in the other, both with fine chewy pastry and filling given texture from cooked but still crunchy onion.
I’ll be back to Amin Cafe, for it gives me the same delectable satisfaction as eating at the communal table in the kitchen at Pelligrini’s in the CBD