92-96 Station St Fairfield, VIC 3078
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 7am-7pm; Fri 7am-9pm; Sat 8am-9pm; Sun 8am-7pm|
|Features||Food shop, Cooking classes, Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options, Events|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9489 6399|
Marwa Makool was bang on the money when she named her Murrumbeena bakery more than 20 years ago. An oasis it is: one-stop food-lover's wonderland where you can disappear into the Levant through the grocery shelves of dates, halva and orange blossom water, the cafe's shawarmas of lamb straight from the spit or simply by standing at the door and breathing the spice-scented air. For the follow-up act, the Makool family have opted for the north side of the river, where they have established a portal to the Middle East on Fairfield's grateful main shopping drag.
The first-impression factor is working in Oasis Fairfield's favour. The high-ceilinged space is white-on-white with a few judicious outbreaks of blue. To the left, delineated by planter boxes, is a seating area ringed by tan and grey banquettes; to the right is the service area where chefs could pass as performance artists and a series of registers double up on grocery duties and cafe orders (yes, it gets a little #awkward). Upstairs there's more seating and an area purpose-built for cooking classes.
Public service announcement: it's hugely difficult not to over-order here thanks to the brain-addling scene of meat on spits, technicoloured salads and the intoxicating smell (our suggestion: bottle it and sell as cologne).
Eggs dominate the breakfast menu: shakshuka baked eggs coddled in a sharp moat of chickpea and onion-mined tomato sauce are finished with cilbir (yoghurt) and outstanding Turkish bread baked at the Murrumbeena original.
Lunches are dominated by tightly packed shawarmas – or get the meat on a platter with zaatar and garlic sauce and other bits and bobs. Not everything sings: the lamb in the Lebanese sausage roll is nicely spiced but the thick, cakey pastry is drab.
Mini share plates are a good go-to for an early dinner: think subtly spiced calamari with tzatziki, cheese and spinach-filled spring rolls and roast chicken wings in pomegranate sauce.
Beans hail from San Pedros roastery to the north in Campbellfield: their Super X blend is born to be mild, thanks to a lightly nutty-slash-caramel profile. Or take a virtual trip to the Middle East with traditional Lebanese coffee brewed on the stove.
Arak? No, but there is a Lebanese Almaza beer. The short list swings from decent Tassie sparkling (Jansz) to a Lebanese cab-sav, supplemented by brunch-friendly booze options such as Aperol Spritz and the good old mimosa.
Loving Workshopping the grocery list over lunch.
Not getting OK, I kind of get it, but I'm not liking the order at the counter scenario.
Vegan factor Enough options to entice the vegans out from under their doonas.
Overheard "I suppose you'll be wanting to move to Fairfield now?"
Caffe latte $4