Sometimes people who really love food say and do strange and wonderful things to express it. I mean the sort of person whose heart tightens at the thought of a perfectly formed scallop dripping in butter, or an apple tarte tatin served straight from the pan almost drowning in a rich and creamy vanilla anglaise (Bistro Vue people – do it). When the desire is so strong it is painful, and the pleasure so great no words can describe it.
My friend Miss C is one of those people. She is one of only two other souls I know in this world who love food as much as I do. A meal with Miss C, if it is good, can involve deep moans of satisfaction, cries of pleasure, and many, many oh my Gods.
Earlier in the week I went to Rumi with the ladies for Miss C’s going away dinner. We tried to make a reservation at Ablas but couldn’t (damn!) so Miss C chose Rumi in an attempt to keep the Middle Eastern cuisine dream alive. We had heard good things around the corporate traps, it was worth a try.
I noticed two things when I walked through Rumi’s door. The restaurant was lovely and warm, and it was bathed in a soft golden glow. There was something about the light hitting the wooden floor boards and the poetry on the walls. It created a comfortable, relaxed, almost romantic mood.
We chose the “classic” banquet, a four course hedonistic feast which doesn’t include dessert ($45 per person). We were told by a quite beautiful and softly spoken waitress that we could try our best with the first four courses and if we felt like dessert we could tack it on at the end. Perfect.
The first course was fantastic. We were served sigara boreki (meaning cigar borek), two dips, 4 pieces of pita bread (one for each of us), crunchy cucmber and various picked vegetables.
The sigara boreki were crisp and crunchy with lovely subtle soft cheese in the middle and lots of tasty herbs. The dips, a thick labne and a beautiful tartoor (a tahini and yoghurt dip), were creamy and luxurious. The tartoor had a slight smokey flavour and was the clear favourite. We attacked it like a group of starving women who haven’t sighted food in a week and a half. Miss C expressed her deep desire to make sweet love to it. It was divine.
The second course was my favourite of the marathon Middle Eastern eat fest. We were served braised greens, spiced school prawns with tahini sauce and persian meat balls. The meat balls were covered in a tomato based sauce. The mince was soft and broke apart easily. I thought maybe the balls could have had a little more spice to them but they were very nice.
One of my favourite dishes of the night (one of because there were too many to choose!) was the school prawns. Tiny prawns deep fried and smothered in spices (which included lots of paprika). Eaten whole these prawns were fabulously crunchy, so tasty and went perfectly with the tahini sauce and a little smear of labne.
The next course was skewers of quail, fried cauliflower with pine nuts and raisins and a shaved cabbage salad. It was all delicious. I don’t usually love quail. It can be difficult to eat, taste a bit gamey and be more trouble than it’s worth for me. Rumi’s quail was all dressed up in spiced quince and walnuts. You could have put that stuff on anything and I would have loved it. It was sweet, crunchy and worked remarkably well with the fatty quail meat
The manly meat eater inside of me jumped up on the table and danced around when the huge hunks of lamb shoulder on the bone were served as part of the main course. It really did taste as good as it looked. The lamb was subtly spiced and served with a very sweet mint sauce on the side. Whilst the lamb didn’t quite fall off the bone, a good drizzle of that mint sauce and it was delicious delicious delicious. The only downside was that the serving was a bit too big for three small ladies, we couldn’t eat it all. It felt like a crime to leave all that wonderful meat behind!
There was one disappointing aspect about the meal. We had a lovely pescatarian lady on our table, and despite being told that she would be well fed with good fishy and vegetarian dishes in place of all that red meat, the substitutes were a little disappointing. The second course for my pescatarian friend was a plate of chargrilled cherry tomatoes (in place of the quail). I would hope that next time she would get something a little more interesting and substantial.
Despite our proclamations that we could eat no more, we decided to get dessert. The sweets came out like pretty pieces of jewellery on flowery glass and metal plates. Miss C and I shared a pistachio halva. The halva was dense, sweet and fragrant with big bits of pistachio. I had never had halva before and that really dense powdery texture took some getting used to. But it was enjoyable, and went down well with a pot of fresh mint tea.
My other two dining ladies had the almond milk pudding. Whilst it is such an incredibly pretty dish they seemed to enjoy our halva better and got stuck into that instead. Sadly, the majority of the almond pudding was left on the plates. I think really though, we had probably been a bit ambitious with our ordering that night. It was a lot of delicious food, we just could not finish it all no matter how hard we tried or how much we desperately wanted to.
Rumi is a treasure, and the perfect place for a long decadent dinner with friends who love food, or a romantic first date when you are really trying to impress. It has delicious and interesting dishes that satisfy all the senses and a relaxed enough atmosphere that you can have a laugh after 3 glasses of wine and not feel self conscious about it.
Before I leave you lovely Melbournites I just want to make special mention of the service at Rumi. It was impeccable, faultless, and much better than the service at some of the more expensive (and pretentious) restaurants in Melbourne. Our waitress was helpful, down to earth and patient. She explained the food, filled our drinks, had a laugh with us and then left us alone. Perfect.
Enjoy Rumi, just don’t forget to order the dip – you may want to take it home with you 🙂
Rumi – 116 Lygon Street Brunswick