"First we take Prahran, then we take LA" could be the unofficial company motto of carbon-neutral Lebanese street-food kitchen Atiyah.
This week, the fast-food restaurant in Melbourne's Federation Square, which runs completely on renewable energy, is opening a pop-up at Prahran Market, bringing its manakish to hungry shoppers from breakfast through to afternoon during spring and summer.
Paperwork is also being signed for several Atiyah concepts that will debut in the United States in the first quarter of 2022, beginning with a Santa Monica store in Los Angeles and an electric vehicle trailer kitchen for events and music festivals across California. Up to six more stores will follow.
Ben Armstrong and his mother-in-law, Therese Helou, opened the first Atiyah in Fed Square last November, marrying Armstrong's sustainability background with Helou's skills and knowledge in Lebanese food.
The project defied the odds, opening mid-pandemic with Armstrong in Melbourne and Helou – stuck in Beirut – providing culinary input via Zoom and sending zaatar, sumac and other spices from Lebanon.
But more impressive are the environmental credentials. Atiyah runs on a combination of solar energy, rainwater and a generator that uses waste cooking oil.
At Prahran Market, Armstrong has been able to replicate nearly every part of the 100 per cent renewable and carbon-neutral set-up, with rainwater and power for the fridges the only challenges. Water will come from hydropanels that convert air moisture into water while electricity use will be measured and offset.
"That's a really good blueprint for existing hospitality businesses," says Armstrong, who is regularly approached by other fast casual businesses looking to switch to renewable energy. "We wanted to show businesses you can actually do it [a renewable model] in an existing structure."
Prahran Market's menu features the same manakish (the pizza of the Middle East) from Federation Square plus a whole new breakfast menu. Customers start with a zaatar-topped flatbread, then top it with poached eggs dusted with sumac, sauteed mushrooms, goat's labne or spicy spinach tossed through pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Akkawi cheese cigars, kibbeh and rosewater rice pudding are among the other grab-and-go items.
Open Tue 8am-5pm, Thu-Sun 8am-5pm.
Shop 120, Prahran Market, enter via Elizabeth Street, South Yarra, atiyah.life