Saturday, 3 November 2012

Zaatar - friendly middles eastern bakery cafe

This morning we went for a swim and then headed to a local middle eastern cafe for lunch.  I first read about Zaatar when Catherine raved about it a few months back.  I have visited on a few occasions and heartily agree with her.  Good food, the weekend newspapers, a great space and friendly staff.  What's not to love about Zaatars!

Like Catherine, I was interested in the work at the cafe on the corner of Sydney Road and Munro Street.  This was soon after Zorbas closed  and then another cafe barely opened before it closed in the same location.  Once opened Zaatar looked particularly appealing at night time.  Every time I walk by during the day, it full of cheerful customers.  The owners are the children of Chafic Choueiri, who ran Brunswick's beloved A1 Bakery, so perhaps it is no surprise that they have hit the ground running.

On my first visit, with my mum and Sylvia, I ordered the three mezza with a dip and salad.  It was very nice, though not quite what I expected.  I found the blob of dip on the plate odd and the mezza (I think I had cheese pastries and a falafel) were nice but small.  The salad was excellent.  Fresh, zingy and full of vegetables.  I think I had thought there might be some bread with the dip.

It is a tribute to the staff that on this occasion, I had my order forgotten and yet the service was still friendly and warm.  On most of my visits, they have been very prompt with the order, and they were very pleasant when they forgot.

Today Sylvia had the cheese and vegemite pie.  I had a mouthful and went to the counter to refill my glass of water.  When I told the waitresses that the vegemite made me thirsty, they suggested I take a whole bottle of water back to my table.  Actually I prefer the cheese pies, above, that Sylvia had on our previous visit.  The vegemite is a bit overpowering in these pies.  But I appreciate the nod to Aussie customs.

On our previous visit I had a falafel zoccacia.  Zaatars is essentially a bakery cafe.  They do great fresh bread.  The zaatar pizza is a bargain at $1 each.  It is a delicious and quite substantial warm serve of middle eastern bread spread generously with zaatar spice mix.  Zaatar is a blend of thyme, sesame seed, organo, sumac, salt and other spices.  According to the entertaining blurb on the website it makes you smart and strong.

The Zoccacia is a zaatar pizza that is filled and folded over like a foccacia.  The falafel zoccacia had falafel, tomato, onion, sumac, spinach, humus.  While I agree with Catherine that the falafel patties aren't a patch on those at Half Moon Cafe, put them in a zoccacia and you have something special and very very filling.  E has enjoyed both the haloumi zoccacia and the kafta zoccacia on different visits.

Today I decided to have the zaatar pizza and salad.  I looked at the bowl sizes and chose the large bowl.  It didn't look that big.  I had the tabouli, the cabbage salad and the fattoush (served with crisp pita bread chips and zaatar).  They were full of nicely dressed vegies but I could only made to eat half the bowl.  Next time I will choose the small bowl.  The zaatar pizza was lovely.

Sylvia's favourite part of Zaatar is the sweet display.  That is, when she is not asking me to buy her a packet of biscuits and demanding to sit on the stools at the bench looking out the window.   I love the baklava.  It is sweet and moist with nuts and flaky pastry.  Sylvia can't resist the melting moments - vividly coloured shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with icing.  I love the colours but they aren't my sort of thing.  Though I was almost tempted today when they had blue ones.

Zaatar is fast becoming a favourite place for us to go for weekend lunch.  The food is cheap and delicious.  I love the welcoming and light-filled space.  Look inwards and you see the photo wall of middle eastern doors.  Look the other way and enjoy the view out the large windows onto the street.  The staff are friendly and always love Sylvia.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend a visit.

Zaatar Middle Eastern Food
365 Sydney Rd, by the corner of Munro Street
Coburg, 3058, VIC
03 9939 9494

14 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure I love middle eastern food so much because of the great bread. :) This sounds like an awesome place!

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    1. Thanks Joanne - middle eastern bread is just so yummy - a middle eastern bakery is a beautiful thing!

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  2. Sounds like a lovely place for lunch, just my kind of food too. The salad look delicous

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    1. Thanks Katie - wonder how you would go with your gf diet - at least you could eat (most of) the salad

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  3. Cheese and vegemite pie! I've been known to eat teaspoons of vegemite straight, so I think I'd like that very much.

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    1. Thanks Hannah - I don't mind a bit of vegemite but it can be overwhelming - but you and sylvia could just sit and share a jar of vegemite it seems and polish in off quickly :-)

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  4. Look at those lurid sweets! (I think like you I might prefer the pastry anyway.) We passed only once in a car, but I'm keen to make a proper trip to visit Zaatar soon.

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    1. Thanks Cindy am sure you will get there soon - will be interested to hear your thoughts on the place (not everyone loved it as much as Catherine and I in the reviews online)

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  5. Wow - how on earth do they get Melting Moments to be that colour I wonder? (I have melting moment on my list of things to bake today, safe to say mine will be the boring plain ones lol). Sounds like another great cafe find ;0)

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    1. Thanks Chele - sometimes I think you just don't want to know how they make food such pretty colours :-) am sure yours will taste delicious

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  6. What a great cafe - I like the variety that is missing at so many 'standard' Australian cafes. The zoccacia is a great concept and your salad looks wonderful. I think it's a good sign when large salads are too filling and small salads just right!

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    1. Thanks Kari - apparently the brothers who run the cafe want a Zaatar on every street corner - would be a nice alternative to the standard stuff you find everywhere - love the zoccacia

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  7. Yay! I'm so glad you are enjoying Zaatar - they are such lovely people there, and the food always tastes so fresh and zingy.

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    1. thanks Catherine - it is a great new addition to the Coburg cafes - even though we are spoilt for Middle Eastern food I think this is one of the nicest places to sit and eat in (and most spacious)

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