Moroccan Deli-cacy, 313 Lygon Street, Brunswick East. Phone: 9387 6805
What a wonderful adventure and discovery for Bennie and I!
After a routine hospital visit, we steer clear of the obvious destinations of Fitzroy, Carlton or Collingwood and head up Lygon.
We have notions – but only vague ones – of hitting Mankoushe, the fabulous Lebanese bakery we haven’t visited for a couple of years.
I’m sure it still does great things – but happily for us it is not open.
So we cast around and wander into Moroccan Deli-cacy.
This is familiar territory for me.
Once, very early in my Melbourne days, this was pretty much home territory.
I ate often at the Italian restaurant just a few doors away.
And I remember the Middle Eastern nut shop – Miramar – that was on this very corner.
So what has happened?
Well, it still does the nuts – and spices and cookies and olives and lots of other groceries.
But it has also been transformed into a wonderfully colourful, welcoming and cheerful Moroccan eatery.
We know for certain we’re in the right place when we’re told there is no written menu – only a “spoken menu”.
And on that menu, there is just a single dish – an open plate of vegetarian goodies ($15).
“Yes please, we’ll have two of those!”
We receive identical plates of amazing.
Everything is fabulous, every mouthful a joy …
Turshi and pickled red cabbage.
Hummus that looks like it may be dry and tasteless but which is moist and lemony.
A slab of crusty, golden-grilled haloumi.
Incredible roast vegetables – carrot, eggplant, cauliflower.
A slice of dukkah-dusted sourdough bread.
A tangled salad of long pasta lubricated by a creamy, spicy sauce.
An equally tasty and spicy bean stew that may be called ful.
Through the now several years, I have written many foolish things on this blog.
But not among them were those in a proclamation of several years ago, about a likeminded eating establishment located not far from Moroccan Deli-cacy: “Food, in my world, simply does not get any better – at any price.”
The same words are true of the food we have enjoyed today.
We also enjoy an iced version each of lovely Moroccan coffee called nus-nus, which basically means half-and-half. Our cool drinks are all quirkily upside down, with the coffee on top and the milk on the bottom!
After we have enjoyed our lunch, I get talking to Hana Assafiri, known for her work with Moroccan Soup Kitchen.
Rather than being considered boss or owner, she tells me she consider herself Moroccan Deli-cacy’s “custodian”.
Custodian, too, not just of an eatery but also of traditions – inner-city, urban, multicultural, eating, Muslim, feminist.
She is relishing the opportunity to breath new life into a long-standing business that, like so many of its kind, was at risk of being ploughed under for apartments sake.
That new life has included the bringing from Morocco of all the lovely, tiled and vibrant furniture.
And the feminism?
Well, without being too earnest about – this is, after all, a joyous place – she and her colleagues are setting about asserting (by deeds rather than words) a feisty role for women in the ongoing dialogue about Muslims and their religion.
She points out that as with so many religions, the role of women is often seemingly defined by men but that there is always debate and dialogue going that is not always – if ever – apparent to non-Muslims.
To that end, she recently organised a “speed date a Muslim” event at Moroccan Deli-cacy.
Cute name, that, but in reality it wasn’t about “dating” or romance – it was simply an opportunity for anyone to drop in and have a chat with variety of Muslim women, to “ask a Muslim a question, any question over a cup of mint tea or juice”.
As Narissa Doumani posted on her blog post about the event: “Before us is a bevy of bubbly women. They are perched on barstools, sipping green juice; they are ethnically and culturally diverse; some wear hijabs, others don’t; some were raised Muslim, others adopted the religion later in life; all are ready and raring to break down barriers and dispel misconceptions – about their expressions and experiences of faith, their personal and cultural identities, their roles within the Muslim community and broader society – one conversation at a time.”
I wish I’d known it was being held!
On Sunday, March 6, there will be an afternoon festival in the side street right outside.
Read another review of Moroccan Deli-cacy at Green Gourmet Giraffe here.