The location for this week’s Sunday lunch-and-strolling-around afternoon was a bit unusual to say the lest. When you say “Swan Street,” people automatically associate this strip as the arse end of Richmond as it mainly consists of boring furniture shops, some drab buildings consisting of who-knows-what, the SEN radio station HQ (a boring radio station that only boring farts like Adam listen to, heh) and a few very average cafes. The only thing that, I guess, is worth a trip to Swan Street is if you want to visit Dimmeys. Or see a band at the Corner Hotel. Or if you want to taste some of the nicest Middle Eastern-slash-North-African fare in Melbourne. The place I’m talking about is Flavours of Lakhoum, a small cafe that’s famous for its cheap breakfasts and lunch and even more famous for its coffee art. I think they were the ones who started the whole drawing-pictures-on-coffee-froth thing in Melbourne before all the other coffee houses started copying them.
We arrived at the joint just before 12pm, thinking that we would get a seat as midday is considered by many of the young and trendy to be the crack of dawn. WRONG! It was FULL when we arrived and we expected to be turned away but the waiter told us that he would save a table for us if we wanted to wonder around and come back in 10 minutes. Fine with us. Not that there was anything worth going to on drabby Swan Street but we did manage to find a kitschy video store with a great selection of foreign films and came across an Eddie Wong noodle cafe which had “creme of sum yung gai” on their menu (I kid you not ). We went back to Lakhoum after 10 minutes and sure enough, a table was waiting for us. Nice one!
Looking around the joint, Lakhoum seemed like an Equal Opportunity HR manager’s dream. Cashed-up bogans sat amongst young parents with their babies while tattooed vegans chatted animatedly with designer barbies toting calfskin leather handbags. I think that was what added to the already warm and cosy vibe which the owners tried to create by plotting all sorts of Moroccan artefacts and rugs around the place. Very left-of-centre. What annoyed me slightly about the place, however, was that it was perhaps a bit too small for me. I understand that it’s a CAFE and you don’t expect cafes to be huge but we were cramped beyond belief. I was practically shoulder-to-shoulder with the campy Asian guy who was sitting on the table next to us and we could hear every word that was said on his table. Not good if you want to plan a terrorist attack or detail your recent visit to your gyno. I’d like to mention that service was erratic and it took a while for a wait staff to actually look in our direction but in the end, I will forgive them as it WAS quite busy and the staff are generally quite friendly (probably because we ordered a lot of food, though).
Turkish bread and dips ($9). We weren’t going to order bread and dips as our meals (below) were big enough for us but they didn’t come with bread like most kebab house meals do .. and I wanted bread so we ordered a plate to share. The dips plate came with 4 large olives, one stuffed vine leaf and three dips – cacik (the yoghurt/cucumber dip), hummus and beetroot (which I avoided as I don’t really like beetroot). The bread was awesome, crispy on the outside with a hint of melted butter brushed on top and soft on the inside, just the way I like it.
My falafel meal ($12). Three falafel balls were fried to perfection and accompanied with hummus and three salads. You can actually choose the salads from the salad bar but I told the waiter that he can do what he wants. He ended up piling generous servings each of tabbouleh, chickpea salad and pumpkin salad. Because I don’t like pumpkin unless it’s in soup form, I was reluctant to eat it but it was actually alright. I know that the falafel balls look like you-know-whats but don’t let that put you off, they were AWESOME.
Adam’s lamb kofte meal ($12.50 for a medium sized plate). Three pieces of spiced mince lamb patties with a spicy yoghurt sauce accompanied with three salads (he had the same chickpea salad as me, plus a garden salad and an eggplant salad). This dish was just as nice as mine, the only gripe about it being that there were only three lamb patties!
Of course I could not leave without trying one of their Moroccan mint teas that every second patron was having ($4). Adam was initially against me ordering one, thinking that it’d just be “that T2 bullsht” but we were delightfully surprised when the waiter plonked a clear glass with several mint leaves in it and poured us some mint and anise infused tea from a little steel teapot. A great way to cleanse your palatte and to cap off a great meal. Total bill: $47.90 for the two of us.