Thursday, 3 May 2007

Moroccan Soup Bar: the heavenly banquet

Tonight I went with my mum and my sister, Francesca, to the Moroccan Soup Bar in North Fitzroy. Months ago we tried to go and it was too busy so tonight we tried again and this time succeeded in getting a table (but not the one reserved with someone’s name and arrival time handwritten on a serviette!!!)

The Moroccan Soup Bar is a cosy long room crowded with tables between walls painted a warm tomato red. On one wall are brightly coloured Moroccan tangine style dishes (see photo below) and on another are lots of photos I never got the chance to inspect closely. It is great to sit amid the friendly bonhomie inside and pity those scurrying past the windows in the cold wet dark night.

It is vegetarian, which is music to my ears, and they recommend the banquet. There were no menus so I can’t even name half the food I ate but it was superb. Lots of veggies and lots of new exciting sensations.

When we arrived we were given mint tea (with a small amount of sugar) in cute little middle eastern glasses (as in my photo). We started with dips – a delicious tahini-rich hummus and a yoghurt dip with pitta bread, olives and lightly marinated veggies – soft tasty broccoli, cauliflower, potato and carrot – which came apart in our hands without feeling overcooked.

You can see the dips in my photo but it not very clear – however, the eagerness of the hands helping themselves speak for how good the food was. This was the last photo I took before my self-consciousness and hunger got the better of me. After holding up E with his dinner last night I despair of ever taking an easy quick photo without delaying the meal.

Then came the main dishes together. The couscous and large chunks of vegetables in tomato sauce were delish but didn’t feel too different from food I’d get elsewhere. The tasty French lentils with piles of saffron rice and tomato rice were great. But the piece de resistance was an amazing chickpea dish - so good I want to get the recipe for and make every night for the next month. We asked what was in it and I think it was chickpeas, crisp pitta breads, tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice, pine nuts and almond. The combination of the creamy yoghurt, soft chickpeas and crunchy bread was heavenly. It tasted like melted cheese on crisp bread so I couldn’t quite work out how they did it – tahini on the pitta bread???

Then onto more mint tea (because we are not big coffee drinkers) and dessert. Dessert was also great – a small plate of delicacies which suits us, as we love just having a taste of everything. There was a shortbread stuffed with dates, a baklava-style syrupy pastry wrapped around pistachios and dates, and a lightly fried pancake with lightly sweetened cream in it.

It was all wonderful, but a weird experience too. Eating nameless dishes took me out of my comfort zone. Naming is knowledge. But here, I had to let the food express itself rather than nodding knowingly at the menu. This is an old fashioned approach to food which reminds us, in a world of eloquent menus, of the power of our tastebuds. But I still feel apologetic to the owners for my inadequate descriptions. I hope they will forgive as I intend to be back soon.

Moroccan Soup Bar
183 St. Georges Road North
Fitzroy
Phone: 9482 4240
Opening hours: Tue-Sun Lunch: 12 noon-4pm, Dinner 6-10pm

2 comments:

  1. Jo, As I read your blog, I wistfully reflected on how far the anglo-celtic civilisation has come since the roast and apple sponge. And where will it all lead? Will a chef-hatted Howard emerge from the nether regions to frighten us back to meat and two veggies? Or will a cordon bleu Keating appear beckoning us towards an assortment of full-flavored rice grains? Or does a giraffe-green world suggest select, succulent peas? I feel sue the clues will be hidden in your blogs. Len

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  2. Len, I think we can safely say the days of meat and two veg are behind us as more of us embrace diversity and creativity in the kitchen (as well as elsewhere). It doesn't mean you can't have a roast and apple sponge occasionally - just not every night! Keep reading for more clues :-)

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