Taita's House review

Shish kofta platter with fattoush, pickles and hummus.
Shish kofta platter with fattoush, pickles and hummus. Photo: Joe Armao

375 St Georges Rd Thornbury, VIC 3071

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Opening hours Fri-Sun 10am-2pm, Tue-Sat 5.30pm-9pm
Features Accepts bookings, BYO, Outdoor seating, Groups, Family friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 0431 466 475

What does it feel like at Taita's House? Well, like taita's house. Taita is an Arabic word for grandmother and this casual, homely, inexpensive BYO restaurant is as colloquial and heartfelt as its name. A meal here is a culinary hug and the feeling is so cheery and warm that you might just get a real cuddle to go with it.

Owner Zena Abbouchi worked in automotive sales for 16 years but a trip to Tripoli got her thinking about doing something different, something tied more to her Lebanese family. Her mother Amne Abbouchi was feeding the kids, grandkids and neighbours anyway. Maybe her Lebanese largesse could be wrangled into a restaurant?

The family's Thornbury cottage opened a year ago. A small dining room is decorated with a Facebook Marketplace haul of knick-knacks. Outdoors there are tables down a fairy-lit side passage and in the delightfully higgledy-piggledy garden.

Taita's House in Thornbury.
Taita's House in Thornbury. Photo: Joe Armao

The food is careful but humble, honest and unfussy.

Lamb mince is melded with onion and paprika then grilled into kofta. Order a platter and it comes with vermicelli-studded rice, lemon-bright hummus, and fattoush salad with radish and pomegranate dressing.

The peasant dish mujadara appears all over the Middle East and northern Africa in different guises. It's a comforting grainy staple, made here with cracked wheat, green lentils and caramelised onion.

Knafeh and cinnamon tea.
Knafeh and cinnamon tea. Photo: Joe Armao

Sometimes luxury lies in the labour it takes to craft something.

For shish barak, petite beef dumplings are fried then dunked in a minted yoghurt braise, drizzled with ghee and topped with toasted nuts. It's a simple but incredible layering of sweet and fragrant, give and crunch.

The knafeh dessert dances with contrasts too. Often made with cheese, Amne's village version layers golden breadcrumbs and semolina in a rosewater-spiked syrup-doused pudding.

The cottage has a homely, higgledy-piggledy courtyard down the side and to the rear.
The cottage has a homely, higgledy-piggledy courtyard down the side and to the rear. Photo: Joe Armao

Taken with complimentary cinnamon tea at the end of your feast, it's as soulful as the restaurant itself.