13 Bligh Place
Melbourne, VIC 3000
If you’ve been paying any attention at all to those entertainment websites (such as Broadsheet and Concrete Playground), you’ll have noticed that Melbourne’s picked up a new and rather exciting looking Middle Eastern restaurant and bar named Souk.
No, Souk is not what you do when you’re told that there’s a 2 hour wait for a table at Chin Chin (though that’s certainly understandable). Rather, a souk is the name for a marketplace in Middle Eastern and North African cities. And that’s very apt, because this bazaar promises to serve up a fresh and modern take on traditional Middle Eastern, North African, and Anatolian cuisine.
Like all new restaurants in Melbourne set on being the next big thing, Souk is agonisingly hip without being excessive. Sprawled over 2 levels, the concrete-heavy space is decked out with pink neon, edison bulbs with metallic accents, and a very eye-catching backlit mural of dark, kohl-lined eyes. It might sound a little over-the-top on paper, but it is tastefully done.
We were treated to The Omar Sharif ($21) on our way in, and this cocktail was really something. It tasted just like a Turkish delight in drink-form, but the floral sweetness was balanced out with the astringency of gin and citrus. And the tuft of fairy floss floating in the middle? Just delightful.
A classic start was made with the Chipotle Hummus ($9), but this was far from your garden-variety Coles tub. Made with freshly ground chickpeas, this was delectably earthy and wholesome, and was totally fab with the cute rounds of pillowy-soft bread. And if this isn’t special enough for you, get a load of the paprika-infused burnt butter drizzled on top!
I hate falafel. I just hate how dry and grainy they are. So you’ll have to excuse me for not being all that excited about the Prawn Falafel ($12, 2pcs). But as it turns out, the flavour of these falafel actually matched the stunning presentation! To be honest, the smell alone tipped me off, but I didn’t expect them to be wonderfully fluffy, aromatic, and not dry! And to set it further above the pack, each falafel was stuffed with bouncy prawns, and garnished with coriander mayo and nutty sesame tahini.
I’m vaguely embarrassed to admit this, but despite all the wonderful sounding dishes on the menu, I was most excited to try the KFC: Kuwait Fried Chicken ($28, 4pcs). Served in an endearing little metal bucket, each rib was coated in harissa breadcrumbs and was devastatingly tender. My only complaint? It could’ve done with a smidge more salt. But I grew up eating Szechuan food so, ya’ know.
To cut through all the deep frying was an appetiser of Kisir: Turkish Tabouleh ($10, 2pcs). For those of you who love the tang of tabouleh but hate all the parsley, this is the tabouleh for you. Instead of being green and sharp, this was a heartier version of the traditional salad made with plenty of grains and a sprinkling of pine nuts. It was served in baby endive leaves, the slight bitterness of which complemented the salad well.
If the fried chicken was what I was most excited about, then the Charcoal Octopus ($18.5) definitely came in at a close second. And this was some of the most well-cooked octopus I’ve ever had. Each piece was so meaty and tender that I was happy to have them with just a squeeze of lemon. However I will admit that the tangy and peppery muhammara sauce definitely made the octopus taste better, and I’m never one to say no to potatoes, especially when it’s served roasted and mashed!
Despite not having been very excited about the Chicken and Apricot Kofta ($18.5), it, like the falafel, blew my reservations out of the water. Each meatball was chunky, moist, and folded through with herbs. But what really made it shine was the ingenious addition of apricot, which gave the chicken a subtle undertone of fruity sweetness that just seemed to take all the flavours, bring them together, and multiply them two-fold.
Just as I was about to admit defeat, out came the final dessert course – the Adanali Osman ($13.5). A strong, sweet Turkish coffee cream was layered with chewy tapioca pearls, and whilst I would’ve been perfectly happy just eating that, extra texture and flavour came in the form of tapioca crisps and fresh berries. A satisfying end to a satisfying meal.
Souk was way better of a restaurant that I had dared expect. All the food was fresh and exciting, whilst still paying homage to their traditional roots. And even though I was so stuffed that I could barely move, our meal only covered something like a third of the menu, so I’m extra keen to come back and try the rest.
Rating: 15.5/20 – trab pu kcip.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Souk.