Sunday, 1 June 2008

Cedars of Lebanon, and other gems of the south

Short review: go there! Soon!

It's in Mawson, which I rarely visit since I'm a north-sider. But a friend was playing at the Serbian club on Saturday arvo, so I had to gird my loins and summon my courage to make the long, long trek south. With the GDE now open, and outside commuter hours, it took me a huge 23 minutes...

The band was Judy Pearce & The Arrangement, and they are great fun. Their repertoire is defined as "stuff Judy likes to sing", which is mostly blues standards and some R&B from back in the old days when R&B didn't suck, and some random other tracks (Amy Winehouse. Srsly.) I like her choice, her voice, and her band and would gladly promote her in my small way, but they seem to have no web site, the slackers. Not even a myspace. My friend Michael, whose other band is The Backbeat Drivers, is part of the Arrangement.

It was a big day - a cooking class, quick visits to Bruno's Truffels and Cedars of Lebanon, and a scout around Mawson. See below the fold for more!
I started my Saturday by taking the Bloke off to the airport at dawn. He flew off to Alice, with intent to drive to Canberra. He could have saved a lot of time... Nah, it's camping out in the Simpson desert drinking whisky with his mate, so it sounds good, really. I went back to bed for a bit, because 6am is not a time I acknowledge to exist, then headed off to Belco markets for a Cooking Coordinates class/demo on Australian flavours. It was run by Matthew Henry, a young local chef formerly of Carlo's (which we won't hold against him) and Loui's. He's just opened his own cafe, Xchange on 7 London Circuit, down among all the new development, serving weekday breakfasts and lunches. Not many Aussie flavours on his menu there, sadly, but perhaps one day he will work them in. Beth and I have plans to check it out soon.

Anyway, our small group was regaled with champagne and rosella flower cocktails; Aussie salt, pepper & spiced calamari with macadamia and lemon myrtle dressed rocket salad; kangaroo prosciutto wrapped Barramundi with Aussie spiced potatoes; rack of lamb crusted with Aussie dukkah, with beer damper; and lemon myrtle tartlets topped with wattleseed cream. It was like a degustation lunch, except we got to watch it all being prepared and ask questions. Fabbo. I plan to recreate the potato dish and the wattleseed cream, at least.

From there I headed off to Mawson, and having a bit of time to kill before the gig, I wandered around checking out the Southlands shops. It was terrific - so many great shops out there. I need to visit again, with a bit more time in hand. There are two bookshops, a garden shop, a gym and a Woollies, and lots of small restaurants, as well as various specialty food suppliers. I particularly noticed a continental deli, a Turkish bakery, a halal butcher, and an African grocer which I had no time to visit.

Bruno's Truffels is a Canberra institution. They moved to their Mawson location, just out the back of Southlands, a few years ago now. There, Bruno continues to bake his specialist Swiss biscuits, breads and cakes, and make his chocolates and gelato. He's been at it since 1984, and I used to visit his Narrabundah shop way back then. If I'm not mistaken, he was Canberra's first actual chocolatier. The smell of the chocolate was heavenly, and the annual Easter display a marvel.

Bruno's Mawson shop is also a cafe; it serves breakfast and lunches, Monday to Saturday. The clean simple cafe decor includes a few quirky Swiss touches, like the enormous Alpenhorn hanging over the service counter. I bought a few chocolates, and a small bag of Basler Leckerli, which are like honey, lemon and spice flat lebkuchen. Bruno makes gorgeous gingerbread houses out of these biscuits; they are especially big sellers at Christmas. (About $80. Chocolates $95 per kilogram.) The chocolates are as good as I remembered, although the dark is a touch sweeter than the high cocoa content varieties that I usually choose these days.

Just up the road from Bruno's is a rather terrific looking fish and chip shop called Naked Fish. They're open Tuesday to Sunday until 8pm. All the fish is cooked to order; there's a long list of varieties to choose from. In the early afternoon the piles of fillets were all sitting there heaped up in the sparkling clean refrigerated cabinet, ready for the evening trade. I've heard it said that they are good, and I hope to give it a try myself sometime.

I spent most time in Cedars of Lebanon, feeling rather as if I'd stumbled into a setting for treasures of the Arabian nights. So many wonderful goodies, jam packed into such a tiny space! Halva and pastries and breads and unusual snack foods galore. The fridge includes pastirma, the middle eastern pastrami most familiar from Turkish pides, as well as all sorts of yoghurt, cheese and olives. The freezer includes rare items like molokhia leaves, as well as some very useful things like artichoke bottoms and broad beans. There are tubs and sacks of all sorts of pulses, nuts and spices, including some rarer items like dried limes and cassia bark. You'll also find hookahs and flavoured turkish and egyptian tobaccos up the front.

Since the bloke is away, I had to resist buying too much. I came away with just some pistachio halva, dates, tinned beans ("Foul moudammas", a popular middle Eastern bean dish and not at all foul) and just for curiosity, tinned baba ganouge. And I'd spent so much time browsing the shelves that I was late for the gig. Oops. Sorry, Michael!


Zoe said...

Cedars is also the only place in town I've found shanklish/shunglish.

Cath said...

I didn't even know what that was, but google tells me it's a Syrian cheese. What do you do with it? There's a few unusual cheeses in the fridge there.

Zoe said...

Oh, it's DIVINE! You smoodge it up with a generous amount of olive oil and finely chopped tomato and red onion and eat it as a dip with flatbread. It's great to take to a bbq or similar - there's often one person who goes beserk and can't stop eating it. I'll do a post when I get our car back from the smash repair guy and can get over that side of town.