Friends really can come out of nowhere sometimes. I mean, take Em for example. The last time I had seen this girl was when we met up for dinner at Albert Street Food and Wine at the beginning of 2012 after meeting on twitter and deciding to meet up and hang out.
Although we got along really well, we didn't meet up for another meal that year, for whatever reason, although we stayed lightly in touch on twitter.
Fast forward to September of this year, and I get a friendly 'Hey, let's get dinner!' tweet a little bit out of the blue. Of course, it's a yes from me, followed by a string of enthusiastic tweets with restaurant suggestions.
After all, why on earth would you say no to a potential dining excursion?
And so, we ended up in Rumi, Melbourne's home to upmarket but homely Middle Eastern food, on a beautiful Monday night, where I worn jeans and she wore a leather skirt. Need to pick up my fashion game!
I will admit, I was a little surprised with how humble the decor was, with a clean and simple fit-out, with a just a couple of decorative touches to keep a Middle Eastern theme going. It was quite simple, but very classy, the perfect combination to invite both the diners going out for a casual meal, or for something a little more special.
I'm always smitten with these water jugs, I think they're really just the most beautiful things…although dangerous too. I'm always terrified that I'm going to drop one!
I felt it was necessary to try a Lebanese wine in a Middle Eastern restaurant, so Em and I both started our evening with a 2012 altitudes Syrah Rose from Batroun, Lebanon. Not too sweet, a nice palate cleanser to whet the appetite.
Rumi's got a terrible menu. In the sense that everything on it sounds absolutely delicious, and it's not too long, so you are pretty much half tempted to order everything on it. So nearly did.
After the waiter comes over and suggests that 4 to 5 options was a good number to share, with maybe 2 things from the first section, 2 from the middle and one larger dish to share, Em immediately turns to me and says: "Oh, I think 6 things sounds good, don't you?"
Clearly, this is why we get along so well.
We start with bastourma, the house cured beef, which comes as a hugely generous serve and sliced to almost paper-thin perfection, with a healthy drizzle of very aromatic olive oil. Why haven't I had olive oil on all my cured meats? Whilst the slight chewiness of the meat is pleasant, and expected, I love how the olive oil softens it all out, just a little bit. The flavour is soft, making it quite easy to keep stuffing them down the hatch (not to be crude or anything now).
Sigara Boregi, cigar shaped pastries filled with haloumi, feta and kasseri, delight us with how crisp and flaky the pastry is, although I find it a bit too oily on the outside for my taste. The filling however, is just divine, although loaded with cheese, it's not too rich, with a lovely soft texture.
On to spiced school prawns, with a tahini sauce on the side. It's really hard to go wrong with these little beauties, I love the spices that these crunchy little beauties were heavily dusted with at Rumi. Paprika galore! We both felt the tahini sauce really made this dish for us though, and would have liked a little bit more to go with it.
After finishing our entree-type nibbles, we move on to the bigger dishes, starting with the crispy fried jerusalem artichokes. So earthy, and surprisingly rich, but definitely crispy. Would easily munch on these over potatoes any day. Yeah, I'm going there!
I haven't had a lot of experience with freekah, but Em has, and she loves it, so we had to get the freekah salad with almonds, ewe's milk feta and pomegranate dressing. I love the depth and all the layers in this, texturally and in flavour, from the toasted and crunchy almonds slivers, to the ever soft and creamy milk feta, that just attached itself to everything in the salad. Smokey and nutty, with a pinch of parsley for a spot more of freshness, it was the perfect side dish.
We weren't quite sure what to expect with the poached veal bell, with mother's yoghurt, leek, dill and almonds, that we ordered on a bit of a whim because it sounded a little bit different! What we got tough was an absolutely gorgeous dish, the poached veal was such a smooth meaty texture, not fatty at all…and surprisingly refreshing. Not an adjective I would usually use with meat, but that's exactly the word for it! As I got full on the artichokes, I would revert to eating the veal and start feeling less full...go figure. The bed of sweet and tender leeks it sat on, inspired me to cook with leeks for the whole of the next week, they were just that good.
And I say yes to more toasted, slivered almonds. Too good.
So when I booked for a 6:30pm table, I was told they would need the table back by 8:30pm, which we were both fine with. However, when I checked my watch after all our savouries…um. It was well passed 8:30pm. Well, well past. Oops! Fortunately they didn't seem to be turning too many tables on a Monday night, so seemed happy to leave us there to talk food, booze and crazy shenanigans had with friends.
Which only meant the next sensible move was dessert. Of course.
Dates, filled with a dollop of tart labne and a sprinkling of pistachio, was very easy to like. I had made these at home before using Yasmeen's recipe, except her version was with ricotta, which was much milder than the lane. Both work well though, just depends on what your preference is!
The almond milk pudding with pistachio and barberry definitely caught the both of us off guard as I think it was quite a bit bigger than we expected! Whilst I generally liked it, I found the texture of the pudding a bit too…texturised for my taste, a little bit almond mealy almost, when I thought I would be getting something a bit smoother. Other than that though, I liked everything else, great flavours, the berry sauce made for a great topper.
We also ordered some chai teas with our desserts, which if you ask me, are the perfect accompaniment and definitely one of the best chai's I've had in Melbourne (unexpectedly!). Rich, dark, rolling around the tongue soothingly, and punching your mouth with spice, I was half tempted to request for another glass to take home with me.
To top if all off, I absolutely adored that we got a small box of gum to take home with us. What a clever, and thoughtful little token to aid the digestion…we both needed it!
Rumi really was the perfect place for Em and I to catch up over a meal after over a year of not seeing each other, and by bonding over food that neither of us was eloquently versed in, meant it we both had a wonderful learning experience (not to mention tasty too). I can see why Rumi is a bit of an institution, and quite beloved by the regulars. With warm, smiling service, who never made us feel hurried and didn't judge us for being the two fatties we were (if you lost count, that's 8 dishes between two girls. We also pretty much finished everything…), and serving up such delicious and intriguing food…what's not to like?
For the record, Em and I have already caught up for dinner again since, and think we'll be keeping up the habit a little more now that we've realised how well we get along again :)
116 Lygon Street
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