Middle Eastern restaurant Bar Saracen to close in Melbourne's CBD

A luxe version of Bar Saracen's hummus, featuring truffles, marron and caviar.
A luxe version of Bar Saracen's hummus, featuring truffles, marron and caviar. Photo: Supplied

Melbourne CBD favourite Bar Saracen has announced it will close on January 30, almost three years after opening.

In a post on Instagram, owner Joseph Abboud (who also owns Rumi and the Moor's Head) said the effects of COVID-19 on trade at the top end of the CBD, including the loss of international guests, city workers and passing foot traffic, had left the restaurant in a precarious financial situation.

When Abboud opened in the Punch Lane site in March 2018 – originally in partnership with front-of-house pro Ari Vlassopoulos – he set out to create an experience more refined than at his 15-year-old Brunswick restaurant Rumi.

Bar Saracen Melbourne.
Bar Saracen Melbourne. Photo: Josh Robenstone

Cheekily dubbing the food "of Middle Eastern appearance", Abboud installed chef Tom Sarafian, whose CV included Greg Malouf's Mo Mo in Melbourne and St Johns and Moro in London, in the kitchen.

Bar Saracen quickly drew acclaim from critics, with Good Food's chief Melbourne reviewer, Gemima Cody, describing Sarafian's hummus with prawn and crab as one of her highlights of 2020.

But while the announcement spells the end of Bar Saracen, fans of Sarafian's cooking can relax. He's announced a residency at Little Andorra (555 Nicholson Street, Carlton North) from February 3, with his signature hummus and some new mezze dishes in play.

Bar Saracen owner Joseph Abboud outside his restaurant Rumi.
Bar Saracen owner Joseph Abboud outside his restaurant Rumi. Photo: Justin McManus

He'll also host Sarafian Sundays, promising "awesome music, wine and sunshine" and long Sunday lunches in Little Andorra's courtyard and outdoor dining space, for the next three months at least.

The pandemic is expected to continue to take a toll on Melbourne restaurants. Bar Saracen's closure follows news that the Commune Group will take over Balaclava's Ilona Staller.