With the sad closing of Prahran restaurant Golda in mid-2022, it seems like a good time to take a look at some of the best restaurants and providers of Middle Eastern food in Melbourne.
Golda was a gem of a restaurant. Serving modern Israeli cuisine in the trendy inner-city suburb of Prahan, Golda opened to rave reviews.
Golda brought the melting pot of flavours and culture of Israel to Melbourne. Head Chef, Rotem Papo, and co-founder Adam Faigen, created dishes that were fresh, bold and bright, and perfect for sharing.
Modern Israeli cuisine is an ever-evolving one, and one not restricted by national boundaries. It reflects the influence of different cultures that migrated from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
The use of vegetables, fresh herbs and spices defined Golda’s food and illustrated the variety of flavours and textures possible within a meal.
Golda’s menu was unashamedly nostalgic in bringing together the best of the past with the best of today, and was influenced by:
…the journey of our ancestors through the Mediterranean, North Africa, Balkans and Eastern Europe. Our love of food and hospitality has been nurtured by our grandmothers and we’ve given it our touch.
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In not renewing the lease on their Commercial Road premises, Golda’s closure is further reminder of how the pandemic has caused so much angst and insecurity for the hospitality industry. Great restaurants suffer from financial uncertainty just as much as mediocre ones.
Golda’s demise also means the loss of another high quality modern Middle Eastern restaurant in a city that needs more (in our opinion). We are unashamedly fans of this cuisine and the exciting flavour bursts that erupt when traditional dishes are given a modern mix of spices, fresh herbs and citrus.
Middle Eastern food is designed to be shared amongst family and friends and those looking to explore a wide breadth of flavours. The best eateries deliver delightful small plates, packed with zest, verve and freshness, in an environment of warmth and friendship.
Continue on to read our selection of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Melbourne.
Middle Eastern favourites such as kebabs are great for feeding large numbers. See our Catering Food Ideas For Engagement Parties for more suggestions.
The Best Middle Eastern Food In Melbourne
Location: 21 Bond Street, Melbourne 3000 / Ph: (03) 9629 5900
Let me open by stating that Eatability was lucky enough to dine at Maha recently. What’s more, we are delighted to report that at Maha, the generosity of a fabled Arabian Nights banquet is embraced through a number of enticing set menu options.
Maha takes the rich, aromatic flavours of traditional Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes and reimagines them. All with a fine dining polish in a slick contemporary restaurant.
Here, the Soufra definitely lives up to its name – it is an Arabic word meaning a table full of food. It opens with the silkiest, most addictive Smoked Hummus this side of Istanbul. From then on, a stream of enticing dishes are delivered to the table.
Highlights, of which there are many, include a fabulously fragrant plate of White Beans and Shrimps paired with Dill and Fermented Tomato and succulent Lamb Kibbeh.
The Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder is rightly revered as a stand-out dish. Meltingly tender lamb falls apart under the press of a fork, its mildly gamey taste enhanced by Fermented Capsicum Burnt Butter.
The standard Soufra is $95pp and, happily, there is also a vegan version for the same price.
It’s a pretty substantial meal. However, if you’re especially hungry, there are supplementary dishes that you can add at every course. So if the Lamb Shoulder isn’t sufficient, you could add in Dry Aged Duck Breast, Batata Harra, Basil, Saffron and Peaches for $28pp.
Whether you want to whip up a creamy bowl of hummus or a healthy smoothie, you need a reliable Blender. For the latest models to suit any kitchen – and budget – see here.
Alternatively, you could lose yourself in the wonders of the Maha’s fully-blown Tasting Menu (again, vegans won’t go hungry) at $140pp.
Now that’s a very appealing idea for next time we are there…
Whatever you decide to order, you’ll be eating some of the best Middle Eastern food in Melbourne.
Greek food is a much-loved Mediterranean cuisine. Click here for some of the Best Greek Restaurants in Sydney.
Location: 36 Chapel St, Windsor, VIC 3181 Ph: (03) 8419 8924
The first of CBD-based Maha’s sister establishments is Maha East.
Sat proudly on bustling Chapel St, the sleek, charcoal-hued space is cosy and cosseting. Food-wise, there are plenty of tried and tested favourites. We particularly love the Weekend Lunch innovation, where you can work your way through their utterly delicious Soufra for $65 pp.
For fabulous Vietnamese-leaning Asian fusion fare, see our review of Coda Melbourne
Location: 86 Smith St, Collingwood, VIC 3066 Ph: (03) 9417 3531
And the final (for the moment) outpost of the Maha empire is up on hip Smith Street in Collingwood.
As with Maha East, the Northern version is a smaller, perfectly formed slice of the original city-side restaurant.
Whilst you can go a la carte if you wish, the Sharing Menu ($75 pp) is a great way to sample the best that Maha North has to offer. What’s more, it’s a great spot to simply sit at the bar with a friend, a glass of something chilled and a couple of plates of nibbles.
Location: 504-508 Sydney Rd, Brunswick, Melbourne 3056 Ph: (03) 9380 8425 & 55-57 Lygon St, East Brunswick, VIC 3057 Ph: (03) 9387 0066 & 4/195 Somerton Rd, Roxburgh Park, VIC 3064 Ph: (03) 9303 9902
Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant is a world away from Maha in terms of decor and glamour. However, food-wise, it can compete with any of the flasher joints in town.
Busy, chaotic and buzzing with the sounds of contented diners, this is a no frills place that prides itself on tasty Middle Eastern dishes, done really well.
The Hommos and Babaganouge Dips are both smooth and punchy. There are no dry, chalky Falafels here, only crunchy perfumed balls with a soft centre. Even something a simple as a Tabouli Salad is vivid with perfectly ripe tomato and bushels of fresh parsley.
Whilst Tiba’s is a dream dinner option for a vegan or vegetarian, carnivores will also leave happy. There are skewers of flame-licked Chicken or Lamb Kebabs, juicy Lamb Cutlets, piquant Lebanese Sausage and Lamb and Chicken Shawarma redolent of the spice market in Marrakesh.
Apart from the delicious, authentic food, Tiba’s holds another major drawcard. It’s heart-warmingly budget-friendly. Despite its popularity, Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant remains true to its roots and knocks out some of the best, and cheapest Middle Eastern food in Melbourne.
Who doesn’t love a bowl of creamy hummus? It’s so loved here in Australia, you often find it on brekkie menus. See our post on the Best Breakfast Joints in Brisbane for proof.
Location: 217 Carlisle St, Balaclava, VIC, 3183 / Ph: 9525 9127
Balaclava might seem like an unusual spot to find a cutting edge modern Turkish restaurant, but Tulum has been drawing locals and foodies alike for some time now. And with good reason.
In a cosmopolitan, food-obsessed city like Melbourne, presenting dishes that are new and exciting is a challenge. Yet Tulum is doing this and more.
In his New Anatolian Kitchen, Turkish born Chef/Owner Coskun Tulum is reworking Ottoman classics with Aussie ingredients and an innovative spin. Regional dishes are championed and flavour combinations are bright and exhilarating.
If hummus and pita make your mouth-water, see our review of the Lady of St Kilda – a cocktail bar with a Mediterranean menu.
The Soufra To Share at $89 pp feature winners such as a delightful Lentil Kofte matched with a moreish Smoked Date Butter (Yum!) and an outstanding Baked Cumin Lamb Kibbeh Pie. Even a comparatively simple plate of Fava Beans Pate is elevated with Raki Pickled Grapes and a spiky Cumin Dressing.
The Taste of Tulum $110 pp offers a culinary tour of Turkey. Each of the 7 courses are named for a Turkish Province and highlight a dish associated with the area.
It’s a delicious way to experience the thrilling diversity of Turkish cuisine without leaving the wilds of Balaclava.
Finally, special mention has to go to the serving staff. When we ate at Tulum some time ago, we were struck by the friendly, knowledgable and attentive service. Having checked recent online reviews, it seems that this superb level of care is still a trademark of Tulum. How wonderful!
Middle Eastern food in Melbourne – and anywhere else for that matter – doesn’t get much better than this.
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Location: 9/993 North Rod, Murrumbeena, VIC 3163 / Ph: (03) 9570 1122
Let me confess that few things give my food-loving heart more pleasure than a couple of hours browsing and grazing at the fabulous Oasis Bakery.
The Makool family have created a one-stop shop for all aspects of Middle Eastern food in Melbourne. And all in an unassuming location, next to a busy road.
Oasis has everything. There’s a glorious shop complete with a deli, bakery and a diverse grocery section.
However, the jewel in the Oasis crown has to be the exhaustive spice range. If you want some saffron threads for a tagine, Oasis is the place to go. Looking for a dukkah to serve with oil and Lebanese bread? At Oasis the only issue you’ll have is deciding which one to choose.
Moreover, Oasis doesn’t limit itself solely to Middle Eastern flavourings. Their spice shelves also run from smokey Mexican chipotle through to warming Indian coriander. We recommend giving some of their signature spice blends a go sometime.
Once you’ve filled up your shopping trolley with stuffed vine leaves and za’zatar dusted flatbreads, head to the cafe. Oasis has a dining area churning out tempting fare from breakfast ’til early evening.
Or perhaps you’d rather have a Wrap? There are numerous options, including Chicken or Lamb Shawarma, Falafels and a plant-based Kafta for hungry vegans. The list goes on.
As if this isn’t enough, Oasis also offers a catering service if you’re hosting an event and runs a cooking school where you can learn to prepare Lebanese delicacies yourself.
Oasis has a further store at Fairfield and has plans to open another outpost in Mornington.
Do yourself a favour and pop one of their stores on your ‘To Do’ list.
Location: 642 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne VIC 3000, Tel: (03) 9995 9189 / Location: 55 Sydney Road, Coburg VIC 3058, Tel: (03) 9384 2933
Not to be confused with its Carre St, Elsternwick, namesake that also served delicious Turkish, Moroccan and Middle-Eastern food (and is now sadly-closed), Arabesque is an awesome spot for an enjoyable night of scrumptious food and, if desired, Shisha.
Arabesque has two elegant, restrained and beautifully designed venues – one in the heart of the CBD (Elizabeth Street) and one in Coburg (Sydney Road). The Coburg venue is currently closed for renovations (as of July 2022).
Craving for some scrumptious Jordanian food? Arabesque probably serves the best examples of this under-represented cuisine in Melbourne.
Looking for fresh, authentic flavours that delight the taste buds and hit the spot? Then Arabesque is an excellent choice.
If you really want to impress friends at your next dinner party, why not serve them a tagine in a genuine Tagine Pot. Click here for more information and prices.
Specialising in presenting classic, authentic Middle Eastern flavours in a fresh and unique way, with a menu inspired from traditional recipes direct from the Middle East, Jordan, Turkey and Morocco.
Arabesque does its best to present authentic Middle Eastern culture, hospitality and cuisine in a chic, modern and stylish environment.
For Arabesque, food isn’t just fuel. The delicacies created are meant to be shared socially amongst friends and family – “Eat together and do not eat separately, for the blessing is in being together”.
Finally, if you’re interested in Shisha or Hookah? Arabesque has two of the best shisha bar lounges in Melbourne. Just walk upstairs at either venue to enjoy a variety of shisha flavours in stylish surrounds. And don’t forget Happy Hour, every Thursday (between 6-8pm).
Why we love Middle-Eastern food
- It’s healthy: Middle Eastern cuisine is all about fresh ingredients and vegetables. You seldom find fried food, instead expect baked, grilled and raw ingredients. It’s generally praised as being good for the heart and olive oil, and fresh fruit and vegetables are major components. Meat is grilled rather than fried, and fish features in many classic dishes.
- Middle Eastern food is a vegetarian’s paradise: The cuisine offers fantastic options and variety for plant-based diners. Carnivores are also well looked after, but the spices, herbs, dips and pulses are perfect for vegans and vegetarians. Most dishes are built around fresh vegetables such as eggplant, capsicum, onion, garlic, beans and tomatoes. Nuts also feature heavily, as do a variety of herbs and spices such as parsley, paprika and mint to add exotic flavour.
- It’s not a modern fad: Middle Eastern cuisine has been refined over centuries from a combination of Asian, African and European influences to create delicious and unique flavours from quality ingredients.
- It’s a social experience: Meals are very much the focus of family and social life. Great care is taken over meal preparation and in creating the right setting and ambiance. Meze food is an ideal way to share a selection of small plates, enjoy good conversation, friendship and conviviality.
- Unlike some other classic cuisines (eg. French), Middle Eastern food relies on spices rather than sauces for bursts of flavour. Delicious, finger-licking Jordanian, Turkish and Moroccan dishes come from carefully selected herbs and spices, rather than heavy sauces. Generally, many dishes max out the flavour, but minimise the amount of saturated fats.
Try amazing Lamb and fabulous Dips at the Mediterranean SOWL Restaurant in Carnegie.
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Lebanese-infused breakfast and lunches, plus plant-based options and doggy treats. There’s something for everyone at the Old Garage cafe