There have been rumblings for a while about a new Brunswick venture for the people behind the Moroccan Soup Bar, surely a member of Melbourne's vego hall-of-fame. We stumbled across the new venture on Saturday, and promptly returned for lunch the next day. They've taken over the old Miramar Nut Shop, which was a stalwart of the Brunswick food scene for decades. Rather than wiping the slate clean, the new owners have maintained a connection with the site's history - the nut shop side of the business has been retained, alongside an array of Middle Eastern groceries and spices, while they've added in a lunch and coffee bar to show off the skills honed over nearly twenty years at the Fitzroy restaurant.
The ordering process is hilariously simple - you specify how hungry you are (we said 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10), any dietary restrictions you have (e.g. if you're vegan or gluten-free) and whether or not you want things spicy. And then you just sit down and wait for a plate of amazing goodness to be delivered (these cost $15 - presumably it's less if you specify a lower level of hunger).
Our meal included two stunning falafel balls, three different grain-based salads, a potato salad, some fresh lettuce and herbs plus a generous splodge of hummus, pickles and a side of bread. There's also a tablespoon or so of harissa hiding under there somewhere. By my reckoning, this was all vegan, although we weren't totally certain about the felafel sauce. I was knocked out by this meal - it was bright and colourful and loaded with fresh, punchy flavours.
I ordered a coffee to finish things off, and was easily convinced to try a traditional Moroccan nous-nous, or half-half (see this post for a summary of how to make your own). The coffee was wonderful, with a strong but not bitter hit. The staff generously threw in a small serve of stunning ricotta pancakes with a sticky, citrussy syrup on top.
This was one of the best lunches I've had in ages - sitting in the window looking out of the Lygon Street sunshine and eating this wonderful food really made me realise how lucky I am to live in this spectacular city. Between Moroccan Deli-Cacy and the ever-reliable Mankoushe up the road, this neck of the woods has the cheap, Mediterranean-style lunch market sewn up.
313 Lygon Street, Brunswick East (formerly the Miramar Nut Shop)
There's no website or menu - our plates were $15 a pop.
Accessibility: There's a small step up on entry. The interior is pretty crowded with the deli goods and spices, and the inside seats are all high stools. There are a few lower outdoor tables on the footpath. You order and pay at a relatively high counter.