Feast of Merit

It’s been a month since our return to Melbourne Australia. Hibernation and recuperation has been a big factor and it was only a few Fridays ago where we enjoyed our favourite meal since we’ve been back. Feast of Merit is an initiative from ygap¬†that takes inspiration from seasonal and locally sourced produce with a Middle Eastern twist. The former cafe interiors have been stripped off and the raw bones and exposed bricks left us all feeling like after a detox, bright and happy.

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My gin and tonic was spiked with muddled strawberries and star anise, lending a florally liquorice flavour. Mr 1-Upper went with a refreshing “cooling tonic” meant to cool and calm the system from inside out, consisting of fresh mint, aloe vera, chia seeds and rooftop honey while the others were happy with their choice of Yangarra Shiraz ($12) and Moobrew Hefeweizen beer ($13).

shauna-gt
Shauna’s G & T ($12) and a cooling tonic ($7)

Alongside the drinks, we were each served a complimentary tonic to sip before and during the meal. I wasn’t able to get past a couple of sips due to the breath-taking heat of the tonic arising from the strong ginger element.

The grilled flat bread arrived first, drizzled generously in olive oil and za’atar, providing the perfect vessel to gorge on the deliciously tangy eggplant dip. Another serving of flat bread was promptly ordered to scoop up the rest of the smoky dip.

 

smoked-eggplant
Smoked eggplant, lemon, pomegranate ($7)

Going with both ox tongue starters on the menu, we revelled in the utterly delicate grilled ox tongue complemented well by the pickled radishes and carrots, with the licks of char on the meat evident in the flavour.

grilled-ox-tongue
Grilled ox tongue, ras el hanout, sour milk, baby radish ($10)
The lure of crunchy croquettes made up of molten, buttery potato puree and ox tongue were also too good to deny.
It was hard to fault either of the salads we had ordered to go with the mains. The cauliflower was fried to a deep golden brown with a prominent nuttiness; complemented well with the blackened onions, hung yogurt and sour cherries. While a little on the pricey side coming in at $18, it was a vegetarian dish that could easily trump a meat.
fried-cauliflower
Fried cauliflower, blackened onions, hung yogurt, sour cherries ($18)

The roasted carrots were tender and sweet, accompanied with a pungent honeyed tahini, a broken soft boiled egg and topped with crushed seeds and nuts for a bit of textural contrast.

roasted-heirloom
Roasted heirloom/common carrots, honeyed tahini, soft egg, seeds and nuts ($18)

The lamb was hearty, rich and fall apart. Slightly unsuitable for the warm weather, especially when paired with the spicy harissa sauce, and it seemed something was missing from the dish to mellow out the richness or spiciness.

Cherry Tree organic slow cooked lamb joint, harissa (2 servings $40)
Cherry Tree organic slow cooked lamb joint, harissa (2 servings $40)

We had all been hankering for some steak and while it was more on the medium side and a little tougher than normal, the flavours of the meat completely satiated any cravings that had heightened since our return from the United States.

hopkins-river-skirt-steak
Hopkins River skirt steak, chermoula, dried lemon, smoked almonds (2 servings $40)

 

The rosewater strawberries provided a distinct tart flavour against t

Dark chocolate mousse, medjool date caramel, rosewater strawberries and seeds ($11)
Dark chocolate mousse, medjool date caramel, rosewater strawberries and seeds ($11)

he rich chocolate mousse and medjool date caramel filling; we found that the flavours were well rounded and the pastry, short and crumbly.

The grilled apricots were paired with a dense pumpkin sponge; made even better with the addition of the whipped labneh and crystallised pepita seeds. This was my favourite of the two desserts.

New season stone fruit, spiced pumpkin sponge, whipped labneh and crystallised pepitas ($10)
New season stone fruit, spiced pumpkin sponge, whipped labneh and crystallised pepitas ($10)

Following on from its namesake of a traditional festival, all profits raised from Feast of Merit directly aid youths in¬†Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Australia. So not only is the food highly exciting and well executed, eating here, either for breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’re helping others in need.

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