327 Barry Rd, Campbellfield. Phone: 9357 6666
Ever been to Campbellfield?
Nor I have I – until tonight.
It seemed so easy when I set out.
A quick look at the Melway told me Pascoe Vale Rd, keep on going and eventually I’ll reach Barry Rd and my dinner destiny.
It turns out to be a fair haul, and when I arrive the Melbourne CBD skyline is not where I expect it to be.
But it’s pure pleasure, as I have this very afternoon I have picked up a new car.
The difference between my old, reliable 2004 Getz manual and the new 2008 Corolla automatic is amazing.
I feel like I’m driving a Rolls Royce – much better suspension and seating, much, much quieter.
I’m on the hunt for a kebab joint about which I’ve heard good things.
But when I find the correct shopping strip, I discover that particular establishment is in the midst of frantic dinner rush hour business.
For what I also find is some sort of Melbourne magic.
In a space of about 200 metres there are at least half a dozen places serving Middle Eastern food of various kinds.
Several of them are kebab places.
But there’s also a chicken shop that nevertheless has photos of falafels and kebabs in its windows.
And even the fish and chip shop and the noddle joint announce they use halal meat.
I settle on Layla’s Restaurant.
There are a handful of customers making use of the outside tables, but I am the only customer in the interior, which is welcoming and cool, and in which I feel immediately comfortable.
I sure am hungry so order the biggest, most expensive item on the menu – the mixed plate for $13.
As my food is prepared, I get talking to Layla, who is Assyrian.
Patiently working around the language barrier – and that even though we are both speaking English – I am reminded that there is a big difference between the Assyrian people and Syria, and that the Middle East is far more complex than as presented in glib newspaper headlines and TV grabs.
My meal is real nice.
Two lamb skewers and one of chicken taste fine, but are a little on the dry side – so I love dipping the meat in the little dish of Layla’s homemade sauce. The sauce is a little salty, watery and sort of like a Middle Eastern curry concoction. Tasty!
The falafels are a pale tan inside, very mildly seasoned but fresh and very good.
I love the three kinds of pickle – chilli, turnip and cucumber.
The “hommos” is good but also a little on the dry side.
A fine meal I have, but I suspect at Layla’s I may be better off with more homely fare such as foul or some of the fine-looking Lebanese-style pies and pizzas.
On Sundays, the place serves baqela bel-dhin, which is described as “Iraqi beans, eggs and onions”.
I take the Western Ring Road home, listening to Billy Jack Wills, Tiny Moore and the boys rocking the house the whole way.
(The menus presented below does not represent current prices.)