Kensington soul

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Sahara, 465 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 9372 5071

Did we miss Somalian food – and eating in Somalian restaurants?

Heck, yes!

As soon as we were able to do so, we headed to one of our faves – Mama’s Cuisine on Racecourse Road in Flemington.

Yes, yes, yes.

It was a lovely low-key return to something like normality.

Fabulous complementary lamb broth/soup and juice, super meat and rice.

This time, with much anticipation, we are headed to a new joint – this one in Kensington.

We had the existence of Sahara pointed out to us by Nat Stockley a long ways back. Between lockdowns, I think.

The premises will be familiar to anyone who has lived in the west for more than a few minutes – for decades, it was a Kensington landmark in the form of the Macaulay Road Taco Bill.

We never supped there.

Funny that.

Upon entering Sahara, we take in the spick-and-span surrounds and take much reassurance from the presence of locals enjoying typical Somalian fare – with bananas on the side.

We have a swell time.

The Sahara food we enjoy is terrific.

But be warned – serves are very, very big.

And there are some twists and tweaks here that are part and parcel of the eatery’s self-description as serving both African and Middle-Eastern food.

For instance, there is no complementary soup. No probs for us – we understand not all Somalian eateries partake of this tradition.

Nor are we offered bananas – but given the serving size, we do not pursue that matter.

Bennie goes for the mixed grill ($28) – and it’s a ripper.

One skewer apiece of chicken and lamb, another skewer of a tender kofta and a lamb cutlet.

All the meat is delicious and the kofta has a sweetish and very distinctive flavour – in a good way!

Nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin?

Something like that!

Bennie’s grill line-up sits atop plentiful fettuccine liberally doused in a good, basic tomato sauce and the salad bits and pieces on the side are fine.

My mandi lamb ($20) is equally wonderful.

We find Somalian rice is a bit like pho – they’re all the same and, at the same time, they’re all different.

This version – spiked with pomegranate seeds and quite light in colour but deep in flavour – is right up there with the best.

Plentiful fried/grilled veg hide equally plentiful lamb chops – again quite light in colour, more fawn than the usual deep tan, but very, very tender and easily eaten.

The Mid-East influence here is illustrated by my plate sporting not just the usual chilli and yoghurt-based dips, but also a good hummus.

I suspect Sahara will become one of our regulars.

The service has been fine, our food arrived at our table in good time and there appears to be ample parking available on adjacent Eastwood Street.

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