Beyond the plethora of kebab shops in Melbourne, you can find dozens of restaurants serving some of the city’s best Middle Eastern cuisine. From Turkish to Moroccan, the collection of Middle Eastern restaurants in Melbourne is greatly diverse, catering for all appetites. Here are 10 of the best.
Headed by celebrity chef Shane Delia, Maha redefines traditional Arab food with a modern twist. Undergoing a massive renovation in 2015, the restaurant’s now stylish and contemporary setting offers a fine-dining experience with traditional Arabian vibes. Maha takes an unrestricted approached to recreating Middle Eastern flavors. Mains include a 12-hour roasted lamb shoulder as well as local barramundi served with asparagus and lemon yogurt. Refreshing drinks induce saffron and pomegranate infused cocktails as well as Arabic coffee martinis. The hugely popular burger range also puts a modern, Aussie twist on traditional Middle Eastern flavors.
Bar, Restaurant, Middle Eastern, Turkish, Moroccan, $$$
Flaming pan | Courtesy of Ancient Spice
Specialising in Moroccan, Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine, Arabesque caters for all appetites. The wide range of mezze dishes and banquets encourages sharing, which is perfect for groups and families. Arabesque features gold and red fabrics draped across the tables and ceiling, radiating the vibes of a sultan’s palace. There is a strong focus on traditional and modern Turkish recipes. Hearty mains include classic favorites such as shish lamb and kofte. Refreshing Moroccan mint tea or a Turkish baklava cocktail are ideal to complement a delicious meal.
Ancient Spice serves traditional and modern Middle Eastern flavours in a casual hangout spot at St Kilda. Inspired by the age-old cooking methods used in Turkey and Morocco, Ancient Spice takes a modern approach to recreating Middle Eastern street food. This restaurant specialises in its signature wraps such as the pilgrim’s journey, which is filled with slow-cooked meatballs and Turkish salcha sauce. Classic dips such as hummus and babaganoush can also be enjoyed with Turkish tapas such as dolma and sambousek.
Moroccan furniture | Courtesy of Sahara Restaurant
With Farsi calligraphy adorning its walls, Rumi pays homage to Persian culture and flavors. While there is a strong focus on Persian and Lebanese cuisine, Rumi incorporates the wider and ancient flavors of the Middle East and Mediterranean. There is a wide range of fresh meals perfect for vegans, vegetarians and lovers of meat. The slow-roasted spiced lamb shoulder marinated with sirkanjabin is a signature dish and perfect to satisfy the biggest of appetites.
Hidden up a secret staircase in the heart of Melbourne’s bustling CBD, Sahara is an ideal space to find tranquility with Moroccan cuisine. With a rooftop bar overlooking the State Library and Melbourne’s colorful city lights, Sahara is an ideal place to enjoy a cocktail with friends after long day. The menu is simple and uncomplicated with a wide range of tapas and traditional Moroccan tagines. The entire space is adorned with colorful Moroccan furniture, architecture and ornaments. The rooftop is also an ideal place to enjoy a wide range of shisha flavors. With its beautiful setting, flavors and vibes, Sahara is the best place to explore Morocco in the heart of Melbourne.
For hearty, home-cooked Lebanese meals, Téta Mona is hard to miss. This restaurant prepares wholesome village food just like a Lebanese teta (grandmother) would at home. This homely space offers an array of traditional and simple Lebanese dishes, including falafel, hummus and spiced lamb. The cigara bi lahem is an iconic dish of cigar shaped lamb pasties served with a crisp salad and cool yogurt.
Nestled in the bayside suburb of Albert Park, Kamel serves a variety of flavors spanning from the Middle East to North Africa. Banquets and mezze dishes are designed to share with friends and family, giving an authentic Middle Eastern dining experience. The spices and blends by Kamel incorporate the traditional recipes of a vast area from Yemen to Morocco. Despite the array of traditional North African-inspired furniture, this restaurant provides a unique fine-dining experience. Kamel’s wide collection of local wine provides the perfect complement to a traditional, hearty meal.
This compact restaurant offers one of the most popular Middle Eastern treats — Zaatar. Made of sesame seeds, oregano and other spices on flat bread, this loved dish is almost the Lebanese equivalent of vegemite on toast. The simplicity of this dish is what makes it so widely used, as it goes well with dips, salads or on its own. Zaatar restaurant also offers a wide range of Lebanese pizzas, dips and salads ideal for brunch or a light dinner.
Selling more than 6000 baklava in ten different varieties daily, Balha’s Pastry is easily one of Melbourne’s best Middle Eastern restaurants to satisfy a sweet tooth. Everything is made fresh daily in this family-run restaurant, which doubles as a sweet shop. Besides its famous baklava, Balha’s offers over 40 traditional Lebanese biscuits, pastries, cakes and desserts. If choosing among this huge range is difficult, knafeh and znoud al-syit are popular favorites not worth missing. Balha’s Pastry is also renowned for producing great Middle Eastern varieties of coffee.
Pinarbasi brings you a taste of Turkey with traditional cuisine and a friendly atmosphere in this family-run restaurant. Specializing in char-grills and wood-fired oven Turkish bread and pide, Pinarbasi offers warm and hearty cuisine. A wide range of authentic salads, soups, pastries, dips and mezze are prepared by the head chef — a Turkish mother following traditional recipes of a cuisine hundreds of years old. Live Turkish music is performed every weekend accompanied by Oriental belly dancing, adding to the festive atmosphere.