We've been meaning to check out the Tamil Feasts at CERES for months, having heard great things from a few friends and via Moni's rave review. It's a lovely concept - three nights a week a group of Tamil asylum seekers and volunteers take over the community kitchen at CERES and put on a feast. The Tamil guys have all spent years in detention centres and are still waiting for a final decision on their futures. In the meantime they bring their culinary expertise to CERES, raising money for their community and their friends still in detention. More than money raised, the night provides a place for Melbournites to meet asylum seekers, hear their stories and celebrate their culture - it's a lovely idea and the atmosphere on the night we visited was warm and friendly. You pay $30 up front for the food and there's a cash bar on the night with beer, wine and kombucha on offer.
Luckily the food really measures up to all the good vibes. They started us off with this plate of fried onion bhaji and fresh coconut sambal.
They were the perfect start to the meal - the bhaji were fried to perfection, all crispy and delicious, with the coconut sambal taking things to a whole new level.
The main meals come out thali-style - a metal tray filled with curries, rice, veggies and condiments. Our selections were: eggplant, mushroom and peanut curry, potato and tomato curry, garlic dhal, pumpkin and spinach salad, capsicum and mushroom salad, onion chutney, rice and a papadum.
This was really something - the garlic dhal was probably the stand-out, with rich garlic and mild chilly bringing out the best in the lentil base. The eggplant curry was spicy - right on the edge of Cindy's tolerance, but perfect for me, while the rest of the bits and pieces all hit the spot. The chefs wandered around offering up second (and third) servings, while serving up $5 lunchboxes of leftovers for the next day (BYO tupperware!).
I went pretty hard on the savouries, so was pretty relieved when the dessert was relatively modest. The payasam is a Tamil sago pudding - very sweet and runny, with plump raisins dotted throughout.
We had such a wonderful night at our Tamil Feast - the food was spectacular, the atmosphere lovely, and it felt great to push back against our country's dreadful treatment of asylum seekers in a very tiny way. The menu changes regularly - Tuesday is an all-vego night, but vegan options are also available on Monday and Friday nights. It's a brilliant night out and we can't recommend it enough - book in and get along!
Thoughts of a Moni and Consider the Sauce have both enjoyed visits to Tamil Feasts, while Decisive Cravings has a nice interview with some of the people who make them happen.
CERES Community Environment Park
menu (this changes week to week)
Accessibility: The setup is flexible - they lay out three long tables with chairs and would surely provide specific spaces to fit any accessibility requirements. The toilets are fully accessible. We paid up front for the food and then at a low bar for drinks.