Latin Foods & Wines – now in Deer Park

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Latin Foods & Wines, 809 Ballarat Road, Deer Park. Phone: 8358 5503

Visiting Latin Foods & Wines – or La Morenita as we’ve mostly called it – in the shabby industrial wilds of Berkshire Road in Sunshine North has been one of the greatest pleasures in Consider The Sauce’s existence.

Those days are over – but that’s no cause for sadness.

Because Marco and Maria are still very much in business – in fact, they’re in business bigger and better than before.

 

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They have moved into the very roomy premises that was formerly occupied by Blu Cow Deli on the commercial strip on Ballarat Road in Deer Park.

 

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And in a grand sign that some things will never change, the gorgeous blackboard from Berkshire has been replicated in Deer Park in whiteboard style but using the same handwritten style.

 

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Yes!

That means all our fave sandwiches and empandadas and churros and the like are still very much on the menu.

They reckon siting themselves in Deer Park puts them even more at the centre of widely dispersed Latin/South American community in the west.

 

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But going bigger also means getting broader, so there’s now also a touch of Italian and Maltese about some of the bakery, grocery and deli lines, while the booze range has been widely expanded.

 

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Their arrival in Deer Park means that strip is looking more and more like a cool foodie destination, with Latin Food & Wines and a recent Ethiopian arrival joining two Turkish joints, three Vietnamese and a Malaysian.

There are plans for breakfasts and proper, sit-down South American-style dinners at Latin Food & Wines but in the meantime the hours are  8am-8pm daily.

Old-school Chinese winner

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Jade Stream Chinese Restaurant, 62 Old Geelong Road, Hoppers Crossing. Phone: 9748 9666

The, ahem, neighbourhood surrounding Hoopers Crossing station is surely one of most unlovely in the western suburbs.

But there is food.

On the retail strip across the road from the station, this being more of an old-style suburban shopping area, there is a hip cafe and a very nice Indian joint.

Moving towards the city and along Old Geelong Road, one is confronted by a nightmare of roundabouts, asphalt, concrete and warehouse retail as the laughably titled Golden Mile unfolds.

Down the Golden Mile there is food, too – including a cavernous Indian place we have yet to fully explore and a trucked-away outpost of Italian coffee and biscotti.

Back in the area between the station and the Golden Mile proper, the grimness is being enhanced by urban upheaval as Pacific Werribee, up the road, sucks away the customers.

Some businesses are hanging on despite the changes the area is undergoing and the problems of access – the whirling traffic hereabouts is intense.

They include the entertainment/licensed/pokies venue of the Werribee Tigers and a Woolworths.

Also here is a motel that for years has had signs advertising its buffet.

This has long intrigued us – we may not think the area very attractive but it is part of our routine.

So one night, having time to kill before picking Bennie up from his guitar lesson, I step into the motel to find the buffet is very much a sometime thing despite the signage and that only a small menu is available.

The whole vibe is so desultory that I skedaddle up the road apiece to Jade Stream, another business clinging on here.

 

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Ah, this is more like it – that’s what I think as I peruse the menu.

So that’s where we head for dinner.

What are we expecting, hoping for?

Just some smart, tasty Cantonese food – nothing innovative or challenging but something satisfying and of good quality.

And that’s pretty much exactly what we receive.

I’m guessing Jade Stream has been in place for a couple of decades – inside has an air of timelessness and a vibe speaks of a business that knows what it’s about and has a good handle on its customers.

While we’re enjoying our dinner, a handful of tables of various numbers come and go – and all of them appear to be of regulars on friendly terms with the staff.

We like that.

We find the service to be very good.

Jade Stream lays some claim to being a Chinese-Malaysian but mostly this is a straight-up Chinese joint.

 

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Curry puffs ($5.50) are chubby cylinders and seem rather small.

But the fillings are very good – mostly a rich mix of minced meat with some crunch ‘n’ pop from peas.

 

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Short soup ($6) has a very good and flavoursome broth with a bit of a peppery kick.

There are five slithery, delicious wontons – Bennie’s glinty-eyed enthusiasm wins him three, his dad gets two.

 

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Garlic pepper steak ($25.90) also appears modest of proportion but in this case appearances are deceiving.

There’s nothing particularly garlicky about the sauce but it is nonetheless rich and wonderful.

The beef cubes are big, of high quality and superbly cooked – and we appreciate the many chunks of broccoli.

 

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Szechuan eggplant hot pot is a big hit with us and an outright bargain, with the smaller dice of eggplant, peas, pork mince and chilli interspersed with silky, larger eggplant chunks of beaut flavour.

At $18.90, and with rice, it could easily serve as a light meal for two.

So big is the serve that we eat a little more than half, with the rest and the leftover rice going to be Bennie’s school lunch for the next day.

With two serves of rice but no soft drinks, our dinner has cost us a fair $61.30.

Westie eats goss 13/3/16

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Down on sleepy Woods Street, Laverton, Seven Star Chinese Restaurant has been open a few months, inhabiting a property formerly occupied by an Indian grocery.

 

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Strolling inside, I am delighted to find a rather lovely and swish dining room.

At Seven Star, dishes such as beef with black bean sauce and satay beef with vegetables are relegated to the “Oz style Chinese dish” section of the menu.

Under the “Authentic Chinese dish” section are to be found such overtly interesting fare as garlic pig tripe, fish flavour eggplant with pork mince, crispy pig trotters and boiled fish with pickled cabbage and chilli.

There’s also a cold list that includes fried peanut salad, oily chicken, wined chicken, pig ear in chilli oil and braised chicken giblets.

CTS will be checking this place out for sure, so stay tuned for a review!

 

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Taste Of The Middle East is on Synnot Street in Werribee, right next to Coles.

Following up on a reader tip – thanks, Clint! – I am surprised to find that it’s no longer in the “coming soon” category but is up and running for Sunday lunch.

However, I soon discover a menu that’s dedicated to eggs, steak sangers, parmas and the like.

Turns out the regular cafe menu will continue to run in the mornings and I’m a day early for the Middle Eastern goodies, which will kick in later in the day – beginning the day after my brief visit.

We’ll be checking this one out, too.

 

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Coming soon is Dosa Palace in Altona.

Brought to us by Nagesh of Hyderabad Inn fame, it’s located on Millers Road, Brooklyn, between the West Gate Freeway and Geelong Road.

This is undoubtedly a novel place to open a restaurant, with solid commercial/industrial on one side of Millers Road and a rather lovely residential neighbourhood tucked away on the other.

Will be interesting to see how it goes.

Despite the name, expect pretty much a full-service Indian line-up of food.

Braybrook brilliance

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West of Kin, 17 Lacy Street, Braybrook. Phone: 9317 7553

Asian fusion?

Fusion Asian?

A mix of Asian flavours?

Or Asian flavours “fused” with something else?

Whatever the case, and no matter how you phrase it, this is something that is not necessarily an easy sell in Melbourne’s western suburbs …

Where there is such a glorious profusions of Asian food to be had.

And when the very word “fusion” comes with baggage that hints at vital compromises of tastes and dishes and ingredients.

Nevertheless, a fighting fit CTS team of three is very excited to be heading for West of Kin.

 

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As the restaurant has come together, and tackled tiresome gas issues along the way, we have seen the photo’s on the WoK Facebook page, read a blog post and a Zomato review by a CTS regular reader (Hi, Loren!).

It’s all looking good and the signs are hot.

Of course, the most miraculous thing about West of Kin is its very existence.

Here it is, shiny and cool and looking lovely.

And situated off Ballarat Road, on a street and in a neighbourhood mostly comprised of auto wreckers, panelbeaters, furniture factories and sundry light industry.

It really is amazing stuff!

West of Kin has three eating areas …

 

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An outdoor garden place that is sure to be very nice on summer days and warm nights.

 

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A bar area for a casual drinking and eating.

 

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And the main dining area.

This has a nice vibe going, with its very high ceiling, exposed bricks and comfortable, elevated booths.

We are shown to one of the booths and proceed to get to grips with the menu (see below).

Tonight, a scant handful of days into the restaurant’s life, we are the guests of proprietors Andy and Tram (see full disclosure below) so have no need to concern ourselves with credit-card pain.

But the food list is so admirably tight that choosing is easy and money not really a factor.

“Taste” courses number nine and are priced between $8 and $11, or sold in trios for $22.

We get three …

 

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Yunan-style lamb ribs, sesame seeds, sweet and sour soy lacquer are lovely, though fatty – as is to be expected.

Sichuan-style beef tartare, fried shallot and garlic, quail yolk has little by way of the feistiness we normally associate with that Chinese province though it is a subtle and delicate delight, served on a prawn cracker.

Prawn toast?

Even if it is served with yuzu mayo and Asian herbs?

Oh how we chortle!

Among the three of us there has been a uniformity of experience with this dish, no matter whether the most humble Chinese noodle shops and posh eateries have been involved.

You know – triangles of white bread, supposedly containing prawn meat and annointed with a coating of sesame seeds.

Seen one, seen them all – so, of course, we order the West of Kin version.

We are stunned and the first of our West of Kin instances of eye-rolling, moaning pleasure inter-mixed with the silence of reverential eating kicks in.

This prawn toast is a sensation, the white-bread base sitting beneath a thick slab of roughly chopped prawn meat topped with black and white sesame seeds and festooned with a heap of herbs.

The seasoning is not listed but the prawn mix, the whole dish, is entirely delicious.

 

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The WoK menu has only four main dishes and we order three of them – they’re all very good or superb.

Superb is the ma po tofu pork and black bean ($22).

Here the penny finally drops for us – fusion at WoK is all about the mix of Asian flavours, not some contrived mash-up of Asian and something other.

And overwhelmingly, the Wok flavours are robust and in no way compromised.

The ma po tofu pork is a hummingly super dish that has us giggling with the excellence of it – and it’s the sort of dish of which anyone’s lovely HK nanna would be rightly proud.

 

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Our other main dishes don’t quite reach the same giddy heights but they are both very fine.

Master stock shredded duck, egg noodle, XO sauce, spring onion, coriander, chilli, fried quails eggs ($28) has heaps of delectably sweet and salty duck meat.

Oddly enough, perhaps the key ingredient here is the unlisted cucumber.

Whereas cucumber discs often accompany many dishes we eat, such as Hainan chicken rice, either eaten or ignored and functioning somewhat like a garnish, here the cuke batons are integral to whole texture and experience of the dish.

Clever and interesting!

 

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None of the three of us are diehard baramundi fans but we enjoy this meaty specimen ($MP), which – according to the menu – has been grilled in its banana leaf with house-made XO and is served with rice.

It has that earthy baramundi taste but there is no doubting the wonders of the luxurious, perfectly cooked and generous quantity of white flesh. And the bones are no hassle at all.

 

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Dessert time!

There’s three available ($12) so we order one of each!

Once more, the assuredness of those in the kitchen shines forth.

Our dessert trio is more European than Asian, but there are Asian flavours utilised.

What’s more, they are used with telling subtlety and profound skill.

The WoK sundae has a familiar flavour that has scratching our heads.

We find out that it’s dried mandarin!

The chocolate de lice, golden leaf, hazelnut crumble is a solid slab of incredibly intensely flavoured and bitter African chocolate.

The stand-alone panna cotta is firmer than most, though still gorgeously wobbly, and is spiced with cardamom.

All three are wonderful in their own ways.

After our meal, I talk with Andy and Tram and am asked for some honest feedback.

We have just one criticism … the main course that has gone untried by us is the whole roasted lamb leg with kimchi butter and chef’s seasonal sides ($56).

We inquired of our server if this would be so substantial that it would spoil and overwhelm our meal – the answer was in the affirmative.

When we see this dish arriving at the booth next to our own, we realise we have been smart as it looks VERY big.

But it also looks amazing so we feel we’ve missed out on a real treat.

Perhaps West of Kin could manage smaller serves of this dish somehow?

Surveying our neighbours’ leg – so to speak – I’m guessing ordering it would require a table of at least four.

But given the pleasure our night here has provided, this seems like a minor quibble.

For a mid-week dinner just days after the restaurant has officially opened, there have been – at the night’s peak – eight or nine tables/booths occupied.

Another good sign?

As we leave, tummies full of very good food, we look back in wonder at this most unlikely of eating joints in an equally unlikely but just-right location.

We are smiling as we do so.

We reckon it’s going to be hit.

It’s actually not that often that I get to write with such unbounded, off-the-leash enthusiasm.

It’s been a pleasure.

Nor is it always the case that complementary food is the cause of the most pleasurable experiences and memories.

But that has certainly been the case at West of Kin.

Check out the Urban Ma’s review here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at West of Kin as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We chose from regular menu and had no restrictions placed upon us in doing so. West of Kin management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to this story.)

 

 

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Among those checking out West of Kin on the same night as CTS were the Urban Ma and her hubby, Wes.

CTS – 2015 in review

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As ever, this list of Consider The Sauce highlights for 2015 makes no claims to being comprehensive or compiled methodically.

Ask the same questions tomorrow and the answers could well be different!

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Pizza pleasures

It’s a tie between Pizza d’Asporto (Williamstown) and Ovest (West Footscray). Of course, both these great places do a lot more than pizza – and both in their own inimitable style.

***

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Best non-westie meal

Moroccan deli-cacy (Brunswick East) serves incredibly delicious vegetarian food made with love and served with a smile. Just a “spoken menu” of a single mixed plate of amazing.

***

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CTS Feasts

Consider The Sauce Feasts are not held in just any old eateries – they are held only at places we love, and we love meeting our readers at them and celebrating the very best of western suburbs food culture. This year, events were held at Pizza d’Asporto (Williamstown), Curry Leaves (Sunshine) and Xuan Banh Cuon (Sunshine). As well, a wonderful fund-raiser was held in Williamstown Greek restaurant Santorini on behalf of asylum-seeker assistance group West Welcome Wagon.

***

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Sri Lankan

We continue to love our Indian food, including the eateries of West Footscray. But we love the added options afforded for Sri Lankan by Fab Delight and Fusion Ceylon joining our established favourite, Curry Leaves, in Sunshine. Even better, Fusion Ceylon offers something simple and affordable – Sri Lankan flavours mostly whipped up in woks.

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Coffee

Depending on circumstances, we drop in for our caffeine fix at regulars Dad ‘n’ Dave’s (Yarraville), Sourdough Kitchen (Seddon), Pod at Pid  and Brother Nancy (both West Fooscray) and Olive Oil and Butter (Kingsville). It’s not just about, coffee, either as we’re equally happy to eat at these fine places. And we especially love taking Olive Oil and Butter’s fabulous spanakopitas home for easy dinners.

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Pals

Consider The Sauce Simply wouldn’t exist were it not for wonderful friends, leavers of comments, providers of hot tips, attenders of CTS Feasts and many more who help us keep track of things in the west. But a special vote of thanks goes to Christine, Julian, Eliza and Josh for making CTS much more in-depth in its coverage of western suburbs food.

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Caribbean tang

Thanks to Bax Food Co in Yarraville for bring a cheerful, uplifting taste of Jamaica to the west.

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Middle Eastern

Bit by bit, the availability of good Middle Eastern food in the western suburbs improves. We love A1 Bakery in Essendon and House of Beans in Altona.

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The pies have it

Ka Pies in Sunshine turn out perfect, affordable pastry encased wonders that have become a home staple for us. Our favourites are the smoked fish, lamb roast, beef rendang, haka and pork-and-watercress.

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How sweet it is …

We love the sugary brilliance of the Indian sweets offered by Kumar’s Sweets in Deer Park and their Lebanese equivalents at  Victoria Sweets in Altona North.

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Bangladesh in Footscray

Rizq Bangladeshi Cuisine is bringing a lovely touch of Bangladesh to the west, offering a great alternative to our many Indian restaurants.

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Burger maddness

The western suburbs have not been spared the burger mania that has hit the rest of Melbourne. St Burgs in Edgewater impresses as the new guy on the block but we still dig Zigzag at the showgrounds and 8bit in Footscray.

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Fab Somalian

Joining the west’s robust African eating riches this year were the Somalian eateries New Somali Kitchen in Flemington and Ya Salam Cafe and Restaurant in Tarneit. Somalian food? Love that rice!

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Baked

All the goodies at Sourdough Kitchen in Seddon and Impasto Forno Antico in Avondale Heights are excellent. But we are specially fond of the fruity scrolls from the former and the ciabatta rolls from the latter.

Up In Smoke: Update

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Bennie and I had a look-see at how Up In Smoke is coming along a few weeks before Christmas.

There was no one around though it was obvious there was still much work to do at the location on the corner of Whitehall and Hopkins streets.

There still is but co-owner Shayne McCallum tells me they’re about a couple of weeks from opening.

I’m happy that Shayne is happy to show me around when I wander in after a fish-and-chip feed across the road.

 

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Here he is with Up In Smoke’s fancy $20,000 Yoder Frontiersman offset smoker.

Shayne and his colleagues will be selling regulation barbecued meats such as brisket but are keen not to be perceived as “the next barbecue place”.

To that end, expect to see things such as smoked vegetables.

Smaller dishes are tipped to be in the $10 range, with salads and sandwiches somewhere between $10 and $15 and a hefty meat-centred meal likely to be in the region of $25 to $3o per person.

 

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The main dining area, regular chairs on side of the tables and banquettes on the other, will accommodate about 60 punters.

There will be a more informal dining area opposite the bar, which will be pouring about 10 or so all-Australian craft beers.

 

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The currently bare area right outside the storage facilities is to be turned into a green-heavy garden area.

Current plans are for Up In Smoke to be open for until 11pm and for drinks until 1am.

Breakfast is another possibility – think toasted sangers, great coffee and maybe bagels.

 

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The adjacent shop will stock such basics as top-quality milk and butter as well as charcuterie goodies and smoking accessories, along with the same meats – in uncooked form – being prepared right next door.

 

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Moroccan magic

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mor7

 

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.

 

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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?

 

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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!”

 

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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.

Grain-heavy tabouleh.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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”.

 

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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.