June 1, 2015
Moroccan restaurant B'stilla recently held a one-off vegan dinner to coincide with an exhibition of Julia Deville artworks. Rosalie was quick to organise a table of keen diners and I happily signed on for a seat. At first glance our table looked cramped and out of the way, but it proved perfectly cosy for sharing a conversation right across the table and we had no trouble attracting the staff's attention throughout the night.
The kitchen had prepared a multi-course vegan meal for $45 per person. All we had to do was alert them to extra dietary requirements (which they handled expertly) and pick some drinks! I skipped over the matched drinks and other alcohol, mightily pleased to see a couple of mocktails on offer. My house made rosewater lemonade ($8) had a strong rose perfume that overwhelmed the mint garnish but balanced the lemon well.
Our first table of food featured triangles of freshly char-grilled batbout bread served with a thin and tangy tomato citrus jam, crispy baby okra spiced with zhoug, and cups of harira soup. In contrast to the version we cook at home, this soup was light on the tomato; more brothy, with plentiful chickpeas and lentils.
For round 2 we were treated to a vegan alteration of their signature B'stilla. Instead of birds, this thick flaky pastry was filled with eggplant and pumpkin pieces, almonds, cinnamon and saffron. It was rather mild, for all that - I enjoyed the icing sugar and cinnamon dusted over the top but cursed our ineffectual knives as I plunged through the casing.
The accompanying salads were also terrific - roasted beetroots were served with walnuts and chermoula, and the refreshing coleslaw included almonds, apricot and chilli.
We had to work hard to find room for the final round of savoury foods - we really didn't do the root vegetable tagine or dill-garnished couscous justice.
As usual I perked up for dessert, spooning out my fair share of saffron rice pudding topped with tangy-crunchy-chewy bursts of freeze-dried strawberry, pistachio and dried barberry. It was encouraging to see a non-vegetarian restaurant convert a usually dairy-laden dish, instead of falling back on fruit or sorbet.
Nobody could possibly have left this dinner hungry! B'stilla were generous and thoughtful in their hosting of this vegan meal. One of their reps has previously contacted us stressing their willingness to cater to special diets, so there's a good chance that anyone could book ahead and receive dishes just as good as what we experienced at this special event. We can also vouch for the warm, attentive staff and relaxed atmosphere at B'stilla.
Quinces & Kale and Green Gourmet Giraffe have already blogged the same event. B'stilla was also covered by vegetarian blogger northmelbournelife last year.
The restaurant has been roundly praised by omni bloggers, see The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, Melbourne Food Files, Eve Lovelle, Melbourne Din(n)ing Blog, stuck in transit, The Sinful Organic Cook, Rachael's Crazy World, Peanut Butter Jelly, Wandering Mint, A Chronicle of Gastronomy, What's My Next Meal?, the hungry excavator, thehangrybitch, Let's Get Fat Together, Typical Food Blog, Petit Miamx, Adventures of a Melbourne Girl, Gourmet Chick, One Fat Cow, grazing panda, Jargon by Julia, the indolent cook, Venumob, MoMo & Coco, confessions of a little piggy, Eat Australia and Chef Masterclasses. Reviews are more mixed on De-brief Me, "Dammit Janet I Love Food" and A Sheepish Food Blog.
30 Bray St, South Yarra
banquet menu, drinks
Accessibility: We took half a dozen steps up on entry and didn't notice a more accessible alternative. Tables are densely packed with clear corridors through the centre. We ordered and received the bill at our table, and elected to pay at the high counter. One of my dining companions observed that reaching the toilets required navigating crowded tables, and that they are gendered and relatively narrow.