B’stilla, 30b Bray St, South Yarra. Phone: 9826 2370
B’stilla is a newish restaurant, on a back street parallel to Chapel Street and near the Jam Factory, that purveys what its website describes as “authentic Moroccan food”.
Strange part of town for me to be visiting, and a rather unusual (trendy) restaurant for me to be checking out.
But this is a Special Occasion.
I have been invited here to see what the food and the place are about by Danielle Gulacci, editor of GRAM Magazine, to which this site has been a regular contributor and the owner of which, Prime Creative Media, will be paying tonight’s bill.
So this an opportunity of a social and professional nature I am happy to grab, lessening somewhat the usual hand-wringing that accompanies acceptance of “freebie food”. Although you will find the mandatory “full disclosure” statement at the end of the story.
And as our food bill is already spoken for, I am omitting prices.
Although as you can see from the menu below, the pricing regime at B’stilla – especially given the location and the quality of the food – is actually very reasonable.
That is, about $6-$12 for starters, salads and sides, and in the mid-$20s range for the more substantial dishes.
We gleefully eat a lot of food – perhaps, arguably, TOO much to sensibly assess – so I am not going to be forensic about discussing each and every thing we tried.
B’stilla seems quite a compact joint, with the indoor tables including a long, high communal table at which we set up camp and quite a few more outdoor seating options.
The kitchen seems positively tiny considering the high standard of what we eat.
As the five of us proceed with comparing notes about our blogs and our methods and get stuck right into some hilarious tales and gossip, the food starts rolling out …
Danielle has worked with all three of us bloggers on a regular basis, yet this is the first time she has witnessed any of us – or any bloggers at all, I suspect – “at work”.
As the dishes arrive, Ashley, Sofia and I simply click into quite a slick kind of choreography as we shuffle plates around the table and revolve them for the best range of shots before the demands of appetite kick in and food is actually eaten.
“Grilled batbout flat bread, tomato lemon jam” makes a nice start. The bread is plain and soft, while the jam has lovely, lemony tang.
“School prawns, whitebait, chermoula aioli” is beautifully fried and delicate.
This is b’stilla, the dish after which the restaurant is named and which is described as “pigeon, duck, almond, cinnamon, saffron, egg”.
This is an unusual dish – for starters, it’s a savoury item that’s dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
The pastry is crunchy, almost crumbly, while the filling is of mild but delicious flavour.
“Confit chicken wings, pistachio yoghurt, pomegranate” is another nice dish, but by this point I am starting to feel a little underwhelmed.
The food we are enjoying seems to largely lack robustness of flavours and seasoning. But, happily, things are about to take a huge leap upwards.
“Lamb shoulder, ginger, cumquat, parsnip, sumac” – ah, this is more like it!
The lamb itself seems to be only very mildly seasoned, but it’s fall-apart tender, crisp on the exterior and there’s more of it than first appears to be the case – enough for all five of us to share handsomely.
The parsnip puree is decadently smooth and the cumquats supreme on the tang.
“Smokey eggplant, crispy garlic, sesame, coriander” is, as expected, a rough-cut salad that is a close relative of babaghanoush – and just like only the very best eggplant dips, it really does pack a wonderful smokey punch.
“Cauliflower, pine nut paste, ras el hanout, herb” is a more ritzy version of a humble side dish we regularly cook at home. It’s fine and proves that cauliflowers and ovens really do belong together. And I’m not talking about au gratin!
“Freekah, apple, celeriac, chard, green chili, almond” is a killer salad – fresh, light, all the ingredients in harmony. And, a little surprisingly, it provides the night’s biggest chilli hit.
We try two of the three tagines available.
The seafood component of our “mussels, cod, squid, fennel, spinach, saffron” is impeccable – just so beautifully cooked! This is excellent value at $26.
But even this wonderful dish is trumped by the “fig, goat’s cheese, chickpea, root vegetables” tagine (top photo). This for me is the night’s food highlight – it’s really rich and deep of flavour.
We finally try a range of desserts, but truth to tell while they all taste lovely, they all pass in a bit of blur, so wide-ranging and prolific has our meal been.
Though the “fig leaf ice cream” that arrives as part of our three-scoop ice cream selection is a clear winner among quite a few!
A word on the music – it’s been as good as the food and service. At various times during the night, I hear New Orleans classics by Lee Dorsey, Earl King, Professor Longhair and Aaron Neville among much other more diversely tuneful fare. Though the volume level has been a little overbearing.
Would I return to B’stilla under my own steam and paying my own way?
Yes, in a heartbeat.
Thanks to Danielle for the invite, B’stilla for looking after us and Ashley and Sofia – love swapping notes with you guys!
Check out the B’stilla website here.
Our meal at B’stilla was paid for GRAM Magazine/Prime Creative Media. Our menu selections were a mixture of choices by our party’s members and the management. Editorial control of this post resides solely with Consider The Sauce.