The past few months have seen a number of openings and closings around Moreland, with two of my favourites disappearing from the local dining scene.
Sometime in the middle of the year, my favourite Lebanese pastry shop, El Fayha, shut up shop. It was one of the long-standing Lebanese pastry shops on the Sydney Road strip and must have been there for at least a generation, if not more. On its window it proclaimed ‘the best Lebanese sweets in Melbourne’, and they were. My favourite was what I called the hazelnut cigar, which I have never seen in any other shop. In fact, I rarely see hazelnuts used elsewhere, mostly cashews and pistachios. The sweets were fragrant with the scent of orange blossom or rose water, the freshness of the nuts discernable, and they were always well-balanced, never cloyingly sweet.
My discovery that El Fayha had closed occurred on a cold Saturday afternoon in August, as we were walking out of A1 Bakery and looked across the road to the signage which now said ‘Nile Cafe’. We frantically ran across the road to find out what was happening and were met with visions of doner kebab spits, and a small case of pastries where once there had been counters of sweets. Part of me wanted this to be a sign of El Fayha diversifying, but alas no. A call out to the twitterverse revealed that Mr El Fayha had retired. Understandable but such a shame. I’ll miss you El Fayha.
Another closing I’m sad to report on is that of Cafe Sarabella. I ran into Sara on Moreland Road in early September who told me the sad news. Ongoing issues with the landlord, which never seemed to be fully resolved, eventually wore her down. The grief of dealing with the dodgy landlord just wasn’t worth it in the end for her. Many have asked her to reopen in another local location, let’s hope she does.
Mediterranean Grill House, which opened in October last year, seemed to disappear sometime around April or May this year. We started going there early on 2013 and I had high hopes for this Cypriot influenced restaurant. There’s a lot of competition in this space in this area and I guess it just didn’t survive, which is a shame.
And finally, there seems to be some changes at the Post Office Hotel. Sometime around July last year the Post Office Hotel opened it’s Dining Hall, in a building that we used to refer to as ‘the old men’s gambling den’, with the kitchen still under the charge of Troy Payne. It offered some really quite interesting dishes on the menu with the Middle Eastern influences that had become a hallmark of the food at the hotel, in a beautiful and light filled space. A recent lunch there recently though left me underwhelmed, with the all-day breakfast menu appearing to have moved on to more mainstream cafe offerings such as eggs benedict, egg & bacon rolls, and omelettes etc. My companions enjoyed their meals and it was clear that the dishes were made with quality ingredients. However, compared to the more adventurous offerings that used to be available, I was slightly disappointed. Some quick research shows that Troy Payne has moved on.