51 Waterfield St
Coburg VIC 3058
+61 3 9355 8866
Sydney Road. The longest continuous shopping strip in Melbourne with its myriad of shops and eateries, starting from Parkville and finishing all the way in former V-Line territory, Craigieburn. Those of us who are inclined to travel up Sydney Road by taking the no. 19 tram from the city tend to get off somewhere between Anstey and Coburg stations. Here, they are likely to do their shopping in one of the many family-owned grocery stores on the strip before popping into A1 for some freshly baked Middle Eastern pizzas and pies and to El Fahyi for some delectable Lebanese sweets. Then before they know it, their work for the morning is done so it’s back on the no. 19 and into the city for them.
Those decide to stay on the no.19 just that little bit longer, however, will be rewarded. Getting off just before Bell Street and way past all the ‘cool’ shops might seem like a strange idea but once you enter Waterfield Street on your left and see a large Middle Eastern grocery store-slash-cafe, you will realise that you’ve made the right choice.
Forget the queues and the service with attitude at A1; the folks at Al Alamy are here seven days a week to provide a very warm and very hospitable environment for your shopping and eating needs. Neat rows of spices, dried pulses and pastry sheets sit amongst dips, sauces and sweets to make Al Alamy your one-stop shop to gather up all the ingredients you need to make a Maha-esque feast at home. And once you’re done with the shopping, treat yourself to some baked goodies at the adjoining cafe.
For starters, you might like to give the manakesh di zaatar (or zaatar pizza) a go. At only $1.50 a pop, all you need to do is gather up all your loose shrapnel for a delicious snack. With more spices than a piece of Original Recipe KFC chicken, the zaatar was mixed in with a blend of olive oil, sumac, sesame seeds and a hint of salt and loosely brushed on a large piece of thin dough before being folded in half and popped into the wood-fire oven. Oh Lordy, it was fantastic. And yes, you heard right… it was only $1.50.
One of the many pides/pies on offer would then provide a neat segue as they are similar (sort of) to the zaatar pizza but more filling. We chose one with contained spinach and cheese ($2.50) and one with creamy chicken and mushroom ($3.50). While the spinach and cheese ones were nice enough, we both couldn’t stop WOWing over the chicken and mushroom ones.
I suppose the latter pie would have won by default because let’s face it, the combination of chicken and mushroom in ANYTHING is a partnership that could rival that of Langer and Hayden’s. But no, seriously, I loved that it was only slightly creamy that you can actually taste all the spices in the filling as well as the earthy flavours of the mushrooms. Delicious.
Finally, we had a bowl of ful medames to share ($7.50), not that we really needed it due to the fact that we were both already stuffed. Still, we were told that this stuff was good so we relented (not that we put up much of a fight anyway). A popular Egyptian breakfast dish, the ful medames consisted of slow-cooked mashed fava beans mixed in with some olive oil, onions, garlic and a squeeze of lemon. Flat pita bread and assorted pickles and sliced tomatoes completed the dish and the result was a comforting meal that filled up our tummies to the point where lunch wasn’t even necessary. After eating this, you’ll never want to touch another can of SPC baked beans. That includes you, Warnie.
We left Al Alamy cafe $14.50 poorer (oh, poor us! We are now broke!) but a thousand times more content. Despite its somewhat out-of-the-way location, Al Alamy still gets a generous crowd on a Saturday morning but that didn’t deter them from giving every single patron attentive and efficient service. We’ll definitely be back another Saturday morning to try more pies, buy half a dozen pieces of zataar pizza for the week and 2kgs of Lebanese sweets for the tram ride back into the city.