The Best Middle Eastern Cuisine in Melbourne
Middle Eastern restaurants in Melbourne are really blossoming at the moment. Whether it’s Turkish and Lebanese, Armenian or Afghani, now is certainly the time to get an authentic taste of the region’s different cuisines.
The Middle East is undeniably a hotpot of delicious food and drink. Beyond the mainstream of sub-standard doner kebabs and hummus, you’ll find diversity and unique flavours that are becoming increasingly popular in the Western market. We’ve finally come to our senses and realised Middle Eastern food is on par with Italian, Asian, brunch and burgers.
Maybe world-renowned chef Yotam Ottolenghi has something to do with it, his passion for mezze spreads now shared by many. Whatever the reason, we’re now hooked on sumac as a spice, za’atar as a garnish, tahini as a sauce and labneh as a side.
As for Melbourne’s Middle Eastern dining out scene in particular, Turkish and Lebanese restaurants clearly dominant. Yet some eateries have gone instead for an eclectic approach, choosing to serve dishes from throughout the region’s many cultures.
We’ve picked our favourite restaurants in the city, so you can savour a traditional tasting experience. Take a look and plan your next meal out asap – a mezze spread of feast and festivity awaits you.
Middle Eastern Restaurants in Melbourne
If you’re after an artisan and gourmet experience of mezze plates, Tulum is the Middle Eastern restaurant in Melbourne you’re looking for. First opening in 2016, this contemporary Turkish restaurant was awarded One Hat in the 2019 Good Food Guide. The precisely curated menu is split into mezze categories of cold, meat, fish, vegetarian and main. You can get an in-depth look into their style of food and restaurant ambience by reading here.
What: Turkish restaurant in BalaclavaTop dish: The sardalya fish meze of sardines, bay leaves tartar, preserved lemon, cucumber and bonita tea. Take note – ordering dessert here is also a must!Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 5 – 10pm; Saturday, 12 – 10pm
Lezzet’s Anatolian Kitchen
Describing itself as an Anatolian kitchen, this Turkish restaurant in Melbourne’s south is inspired by cuisines throughout the wider Middle Eastern and Mediterranean region. Lezzet’s menu has Turkish flavours at its core, but chef patron Kemal Barut is also influenced by the likes of Syrian, Persian and Greek cuisines. The restaurant interior is also unique, its arched entryways and sand-coloured walls giving off the feel of Arabic architectural design.
What: Turkish restaurant in ElwoodTop dish: Slow-cooked lamb, either Anatolian-style cooked for 18 hours with fig and date jus, or Istanbul-style cooked for 20 hours with smoked begendi and crispy lavash.Hours: Tuesday to Friday, 5:30 – 10pm; Weekends, 12 – 3pm and 5:30 – 10pm
Owned by two brothers from Beirut, Mankoushe is a casual restaurant that celebrates the breadth of Middle Eastern cuisine. The seasonal menu is inspired by locally-sourced artisan produce and it’s safe to say the stand-out dishes are the Lebanese pizzas. Vegan, vegetarian and meat kinds are all available and there’s original sauce bases inspired by different countries. Oh, and it’s BYO! One of our Melbourne favourites, in fact.
What: Lebanese pizzeria in Brunswick EastTop dish: Palestini curried lamb pizza with fresh tomato, almond tahini and parsley; or Phoenician sautéed leeks pizza with silverbeet, halloumi and roquette.Hours: Wednesday to Friday, 5 – 10pm; Weekends, 12 – 10pm
Yagiz is the kind of restaurant that knows what modern diners are looking for – fine food without fuss. That’s the motto at this South Yarra eatery who skilfully serve modern Turkish cuisine in an unpretentious atmosphere. Formerly of Tulum, this is head chef Murat Ovaz’s first solo project, the talented patron having established himself in Melbourne’s dining scene. His artisan menu is seasonal, and the restaurant also boasts a great wine list featuring Turkish varieties.
What: Turkish restaurant in South YarraTop dish: Grilled calamari with burnt pepper and crispy bulgur, or the pan-fried lamb liver with dukkah and labneh.Hours: Monday to Thursday, 5:30 – 11pm; Friday and Saturday, 11:30am – 3pm and 5:30 – 11pm
Down an alleyway in the Melbourne city centre you’ll find Sezar, a Middle Eastern gem that serves modern Armenian food. The restaurant has a contemporary space spread over two floors, with ambience aplenty. The menu has various sized dishes, right from small mezze snacks through to family-style roasts of lamb shoulder and duck.
What: Armenian restaurant in Melbourne CBDTop Dishes: Saffron-jewelled rice with squash and smoked roe, or crispy fried quail with burnt cherry and preserved orange.Hours: Monday to Saturday, 12 – 3pm and 5:30 – 10:30pm
Afghan Gallery Restaurant
Amongst the sea of modern Middle Eastern restaurants in Melbourne, Afghan Gallery is a neighbourhood eatery offering something unique. It’s definitely the most charming restaurant on our list, thanks to its cosy and romantic ambience. Yet furthermore, it’s been on Brunswick Street since 1983, passionately serving locals cuisine from Afghanistan. Its approach is traditional, simple and satisfyingly delicious.
What: Afghani restaurant in FitzroyTop dish: BBQ barb kebab of marinated lamb backstrap, or the signature Kabuli Palaw rice pilaf with spices, sultanas and carrot.Hours: Monday to Sunday, 6 – 11pm
Alba’s is the original Lebanese restaurant in Melbourne. Open since 1979, and still in the same location on Carlton’s Elgin Street, this is a restaurant with genuine hospitality at its core. The owner Abla Amad is a humble soul who emigrated to Australia in 1954 from Lebanon. Her unrivalled traditional and homemade Lebanese food is the epitome of Middle Eastern cuisine in its most heart-warming form. BYO is available Monday to Thursday, but their Lebanese wine comes highly recommended.
What: Lebanese restaurant in CarltonTop dish: Kibbee lamb and cracked wheat casing, stuffed with spiced lamb and pine nuts, served with homemade labneh.Hours: Monday to Saturday, 6 – 10pm (Thursday and Friday lunch from 12 – 3pm)
Maha is a chic restaurant in the city centre that offers Middle Eastern fine dining. Lead by restaurateur Shane Delia, this is contemporary and lavish dining done right. Annually awarded One Hat from the Good Food Guide since opening in 2009, Maha is passionate about taking guests on a Middle Eastern journey. One of flavour, aroma, texture and decadence. Seasonal produce drives the gourmet set menus and à la carte is available at lunch.
What: Middle Eastern restaurant in Melbourne CBDTop dish: Salmon kibbeh neya with black garlic, sesame, pickled onions and mint. For dessert, olive oil and spiced syrup semolina cake with pear saffron jam and chickpea ice cream.Hours: Monday to Sunday, 12 – 19pm
Tucked away in the South Melbourne Market is Köy Restaurant, a Turkish eatery doing several things we simply love. From modern mezze sharing plates to traditional chargrilled Turkish specialities, this place is delicious. Perhaps most notable though is their Middle Eastern breakfast. You can keep it quick and grab a gözleme Turkish pastry, or sit down and have a real feast. We definitely recommend the latter.
What: Turkish restaurant in South MelbourneTop dish: For dinner, the chargrilled whole garfish with Mediterranean spices. For breakfast, the saksuka simmering eggs with tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, spiced sausage and Turkish bread.Hours: Wednesday, 9am – 10pm; Thursday, 11am – 10pm; Friday and Saturday, 8am – 11pm; Sunday, 8am – 4pm
Laffé by Kanzaman
For a casual, but rather gourmet, introduction to all things Lebanese, head down to Laffé by Kanzaman. This popular Melbourne restaurant is family run and you can almost sense this when dining. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, perfect alongside wholesome food you know is homemade and traditional. With a menu designed for sharing, come along with a group and order as many dishes as possible!
What: Lebanese restaurant in RichmondTop dish: The mixed platter of homemade dips – red pepper and walnut muhammara, traditional tahini hummus, smoked eggplant baba ghannouj, labneh yoghurt with cucumber and mint.Hours: Tuesday, 5 – 10pm; Wednesday to Sunday, 12 – 10pm