313 Lygon St Brunswick East, VIC 3057
|Opening hours||Daily 9am-5pm|
|Features||Cheap Eats, Vegetarian friendly, Cheap and cheerful, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9387 6805|
Some people know exactly what they want the new year to bring. If you're Hana Assafiri, owner of Moroccan Deli-cacy, you might sum it up as peace, falafel, understanding, haloumi and empowerment, hopefully all at the same time. Assafiri is an activist, chef and businesswoman. She's been cooking, cultivating friendships and being fabulously fierce and feminist for two decades at the Moroccan Soup Bar in Fitzroy North.
In 2015 she rescued the longstanding Miramar Nut Shop from the hands of developers and refashioned it as a deli and diner. The chief mission is the same in both her businesses: it's to employ Muslim women and enable them to thrive. The food business is a delicious, wholesome byproduct.
The deli is a delight. Mismatched tables are colourfully tiled. Walls are lined with tins and jars. There's the smell of spices, tumblers of nuts and huge jars of olives, preserved lemons and sweets.
The menu is verbal: the head-scarved waiters can tell you what there is or, even easier, you can just ask them to feed you. Surely this is the cheapest banquet in town. For $18 you're delivered an array of seasonal vegetarian dishes in a rolling parade of Middle Eastern magnificence.
There will always be falafel, haloumi, grain salads, grilled vegetables and flame-scorched and smoky eggplant turned into a dip.
Perhaps you'll be delivered a simple summer salad with tomatoes, spring onion, oregano and shanklish, a crumbly cheese, tossed with olive oil and lemon, sprinkled with bright, citrusy sumac. That could be followed by a cous cous salad with walnuts, slivered almonds, cranberries, preserved lemon, harissa and herbs, spicy, crunchy and fresh all at once.
Everything is made here from scratch, everything is tasty.
Pay an extra $4 and you'll have sweets and a hot drink, too. The mint tea is sweet, refreshing and served in a tin teapot. The coffee is nous-nous style, half espresso and half milk, strong and layered.
Breakfast comes sweet (perhaps the croissant-roti hybrid known as milwee) or savoury (look out for a "buried pizza" stuffed with beans, capsicum and egg).
You can just eat here and stock up on nuts and spices but there's more to the Deli-cacy's breed of hospitality. Events include discussion evenings in the upstairs salons and "Muslim speed dating", an opportunity for Muslim women and others to gather to talk, ask questions and generally myth bust. The next one is January 22; call to register.
I love this place: it's big-hearted, uncompromising and I reckon the food tastes better because you just know the all-women crew is telling great stories as they work. If you want a side of hope with your 2017, come here to eat, talk, listen and open up.
Rating: Four stars (out of five).