Moroccan magic



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.

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.




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.





 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.

We are joined by her Prime Creative colleague Sarah and bloggers Sofia of Poppet’s Window and Ashley of I’m So Hungree.

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.