Al-alamy, 51 Waterfield St, Coburg. Phone: 9355 8866
Since making a mental note of this intriguing, fantastic joint while checking out the adjoining Wang Wang Dumpling, a fair bit of time has elapsed, during which we’ve ascertained that Al-Alamy is something of a magic foodie hotspot.
And not just for those, bloggers and more, who love to blather on about food in the cyber world, either.
In the hour or so I am in-house for a Monday lunch, an endless stream of savvy regulars comes and goes – young mums with tots, workers in suits and shorts, grandparents with tots, larger family groups, singles such as my self, content to hunker down with their chosen lunches and a newspaper/magazine/book.
There are a number of reasons for the intense popularity of Al-Alamy.
The prices, for starters.
A plain zaatar pizza costs $1.50, dressed with onion and tomato $2.50.
The rest of the usual lineup of pies and pizzas range from $2.50 up to $4.
For about the same price, you can have one of the saj pizzas, in which saj bread is stuffed with fillings and then draped over a spherical heating plate. Different!
The dips platters cost $7.
Outside of the pay-if-you-want Lentil As Anything outlets, could be this is the cheapest of cheap eats in Melbourne.
But that, of course, would mean nowt if the food wasn’t as spectacular.
It is, well based on my magnificent foul meddammes ($7) anyway!
This perfect little spread is cheap, healthy and likely to set a template in our house for lazy don’t-feel-like-cooking summer days – vinegary pickles, olives, pita bread, dips/foul, what could be better?
The plate of pickled cucumbers slices and pink turnip, beautifully fresh tomato chunks and wrinkled, chewy olives is the perfect foil for its lunch companions.
It might be thought all the zing and tang would come from them, with the beans playing straight man, but that’s not the case. Yes, the beans (and a few chick peas) have some of the pasty blandness I expect and desire, but there’s an undertow of lemon in there, too.
What an incredible feed!
A few tables over, I see a couple of blokes tucking into a spread that has the same bits and pieces as mine, but with awarma (scrambled eggs with minced meat, $8.50) instead – and that looks so fine, as well.
My cafe latte is hot, strong, sensational and another bargain at $2.50.
Al-Alamy is one of the enlightened, sensible places that will feed you and sell you stuff to feed you and yours at home. Think Mediterranean Wholesalers, La Morenita or Little Saigon Market.
So obvious on one level, such genius on another – and a potent alternative to the supermarket for shopping, restaurant for eating out syndrome.
It’s been open for about five years, but feels a lot more homely and lived in than that – in a positive way!
I only wish it was closer to home – the traffic hereabouts is a mess just about all the time, and on my way across town I made the killer mistake of joining Sydney Rd WAY too early in the piece.
On the way home I do better by a mixture of Bell St, Moreland Rd and Pasco Vale Rd.
Before departing Al-Alamy, I buy some eggplant and beetroot dips to go, pita bread and half a dozen pieces of a wonderful sweetie that is part marshmellow, part nougat, each piece studded with a piece of Turkish delight.
I truly love this place – how can I not when it’s an establishment that has a head-scarfed female staff member placing my lunch on my table with a cheerful, “There you go, mate!”