145 Nicholson St, Footscray. Phone: 0452 639 329
Khartoum Centre is a popular place – groups of friends, young families and extended families come and go.
It seems the perfect place for Saturday lunch – especially after I had discovered a sensational new barber in “Little Khartoum Arcade”. So gentle, thorough, professional!
We’d been to Khartoum Centre once – for a nice falafel plate.
One young family near us is having fish with rice and salad, but most of the larger tables around us are tucking into big communal bowls of ful.
But we know that we’re going to be taking our pulses that night in the form of homemade dal, so we head off in a different direction.
There’s certainly a lot from which to choose. There seem to be no written menus – the food range is displayed in photos and lists at the end of the room, where customers place their orders adjacent to the kitchen. Unfortunately, the many intriguing photos have no captions, so it’s hard to place a dish’s name with its pic.
There’s Sudanese dishes, of course, but also an Ethiopian section, dips, salads, soups – and even a kids menu. A lot of the dishes seem to be close kin to those served by the likes of the Iraqi joint across the road and other Middle Eastern places.
Since our initial visit, we’d walked in and walked out several times, finding no one much interested in explaining the menu to us or taking our order. There seems to be an expectation that customers already know what they desire.
Today we soldier on – with an order of meat soup and mixed grill.
As expected, the meat soup, thoughtfully served to us in two small bowls, is a sibling to those found at our Ascot Vale friends Yemeni Restaurant and Safari Restaurant – meat soups in which nary a strand dead sheep is to be found but which are explosively, deeply meatly flavoured. But where those efforts are clear, tangy and spicy, the meat soup at Khartoum Centre is cloudy – but the depth of flavour is no less impressive.
The mixed grill is a delight.
Bennie declares the boneless pieces of fish – fluffly, light, mellow of flavour and with a soft (eggy?) batter – the best he’s ever had.
They share the plate with a handful of garlicky, pan-fried lamb cubes, some equally garlicky and charred pieces of chicken thigh and three similarly charred and tasty lamb chops.
Attending the lot are a small serve of finely chopped salad of tomato, cucumber and more, rice of no great distinction and good dollops of humus and cucumber/yogurt dip
(BTW, the Khartoum mixed grill was adjudged one Ms Baklover’s top five dishes when she was covered, with us, by Leader newspapers.)
The Khartoum mixed grill is a fine dish to share. Unless you’re a shearer taking your lunch break!
Satisfied, we arise to pay our bill. And discover that instead of the $3 listed for the soup, we are being charged $5. And instead of $16 for the mixed grill, we are charged $18. We don’t make a big deal of it, as at $25 including two cans of soda it’s still a fine cheap eat.
There’s so much food to explore at Khartoum Centre, but we’d feel happier about repeated return visits if we didn’t feel like we are somehow out the eatery’s loop. Maybe the fault is ours – maybe we need to be a little more assertive in such circumstances.
On the way back to the car, we meet the most friendly and beautiful tabby kitten. Gorgeous!