Zurouna

304 Toorak Road, South Yarra, Victoria

Inside Zurouna in South Yarra.
Middling service: Staff clangers diminished the experience. Photo: Ken Irwin

Dani Valent

Sitting at Zurouna, holding the dessert menu up so it didn't splodge in the unwiped debris of our main course, I had time to think about why I was there. We go to restaurants to eat, obviously, but we dare to hope for stewardship that adds warmth and atmosphere to the calorific nourishment. There's some good food at Zurouna, and I did sense love and care in the business, but it could be expressed with more energy and polish.

It's not just about smiles (we got one on entering, though a hopeful drop-in at 9pm got a terse, rattled look after the waiter glanced at her watch). It's about being observant the whole meal long: prioritising plate clearing above resetting tables that won't be sat at until the next day, for example. And when the notion of collecting dirty dinnerware does strike, it would be nice to clear all of it, not just two plates before dreamily disappearing.

Other clangers included forgetting dishes, not knowing the menu very well, bringing a teaspoon to serve the rice, and leaving us without water (the opaque carafes are pretty but they don't facilitate this basic amenity).

Middling service: Zurouna's zaatar-spiced calamari was excellent but staff clangers diminished the experience.
Zaatar-spiced calamari was excellent. Photo: Ken Irwin

There are so many restaurants. It pains me to see restaurateurs undercut their hard work by offering easy reasons to never go back.

And there are good reasons to eat at Zurouna: the dining room is simple but comfortable and the front deck is a lovely place to share a well-priced banquet on warm nights. The food is more or less Lebanese with the occasional Moroccan excursion. The menu is an easily navigable array of snacky stuff, salads, grills and oven dishes; presentation is attractive, spicing is gentle. The wine list is cursory but traditional drinks are sparky, especially the date, carob and rosewater juice. The calamari was excellent, dusted with a vibrant zaatar spice blend, and grilled into a fork-tender, twisty, sweet-and-tart tumble.

The chicken mograbieh was beguiling and satisfying, the braised bird submerged in enticing, soupy gravy scented with cinnamon and lemon, and dotted with mograbieh (giant couscous) and chickpeas. Whole snapper was expertly cooked so it flaked easily from the bone and smothered in wholesome tarator (walnut sauce).

As I write about the food, I feel even sadder about the experience. Toorak Road is a tricky strip but there's promise here - I sincerely hope Zurouna fulfils it.

Rating: Two and a half stars (out of five)

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304 Toorak Road, South Yarra, Victoria

  • Cuisine - Middle Eastern
  • Prices - Entrees: $8-$18; mains: $22-$32; desserts: $8-$12
  • Features - Licensed
  • Cards accepted - Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Daily 11.30am-late
  • Author - Dani Valent
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Reader ratings (2)

3 comments so far

  • Nailed it - I've been there a few times over the past 2 months, and while the food is great - the service has been pretty terrible every time

    Commenter
    Sarah
    Location
    South Yarra
    Date and time
    September 23, 2013, 11:48AM
  • I was made to feel unwelcome. Lovely food but couldn't get out of there fast enough. Won't be back.

    Commenter
    SG
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    September 23, 2013, 12:16PM
  • Was there Sunday night with 2 other people, the food was good and got served by the owner and a very good waiter
    will go again, nice place

    Commenter
    FOOD4LIFE
    Location
    Date and time
    September 23, 2013, 1:00PM

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