Where to eat during Ramadan in Melbourne
Words by Sofia Levin
Images by Sofia Levin & supplied
From $35 all-you-can-eat Iftar buffets, to camel burgers and hidden Malaysian markets, this is your ultimate Ramadan Melbourne restaurant guide for 2023.
There’s an awful lot of feasting during Ramadan, considering it’s known as the holy month of fasting. Muslims abstain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset, but friends, families and strangers gather between darkness and dawn to eat enough to last until the following day.
Iftar is the meal the breaks the fast, while Suhur is one last crack before the sun rises to power people through to Iftar again. Ramadan 2023 started on March 22 and goes until April 21. Restaurants serving cuisines from countries with large Muslim populations offer affordable, traditional buffets and set menus to break the fast, as well as some exciting specials you won't find at other times during the year. It’s social, communal and delicious – and you don’t have to be Muslim to enjoy it.
Here’s where to celebrate Ramadan at restaurants in Melbourne.
1. Shamiat, Northcote
No-frills-all-thrills Shamiat Syrian restaurant has an Iftar package featuring an open buffet. It's $50 per adult and $25 for kids under 11 years old. You'll break the fast with dates at dusk, before small bites such as kibbeh and sambousek, served with hummus and baba ganoush, assorted veggies, and tabouleh and fattoush salads. Hot, saucy mains revolve around traditional rice dishes, like molokhia (soupy braised jute leaf stew), shish barak (kibbeh in yoghurt sauce), bamya (okra stew) and mujaddara (lentils, rice and caramelised onion). To drink, there's Ayran (yoghurt) and jalab (fruit cordials made from dates, grapes, carob, molasses and rose water).
64 Victoria Road, Northcote, shamiat.com.au
2. Mandina Kitchen, Carlton
Feast on Arabic and Yemeni cuisine in the middle of Melbourne's Little Italy with a $40 Iftar buffet at Mandina Kitchen. It includes special Ramadan soups and appetisers, with the signature lamb and chicken mandi as mains. Ramadan specials change daily, perhaps chicken madhgoot pressure-cooked with tomato and spices, or a dish called magluba, where meat and vegetables are cooked with rice in a pot, which is then inverted onto a platter (the literal translation of the dish is “upside-down”). For dessert, there's logaimat (fried dough balls in date syrup) and kunafa (also known as knafeh, a warm kataifi pastry dessert soaked in sugar syrup and layered with cheese, clotted cream and pistachio nuts) with Adeni tea (a spiced Yemeni tea with sweetened condensed milk).
143 Lygon Street, Carlton, mandinakitchen.com.au
3. Tambo Ciek, Caulfield South & Coburg
Dedicated to West Sumatran food and known for nasi kapau, casual Padang restaurant Tambo Ciek has introduced special Ramadan takjil, which are sweet snacks that break the fast. Traditional drinks and aneka nasi tumpeng (conical, yellow rice with various accompaniments) are also available. Takjil include ketan hitam (black glutinous rice with coconut milk), various bubur (porridges sweetened with palm sugar and made with any combination of tapioca, mung beans, sweet potato, yam, rice flour and coconut milk), and kolak pisang (banana, sweet potato, palm seeds, coconut milk and palm sugar).
783 Glen Huntly Road, Caulfield South
Walkers Arcade, Shop 4, 471-474 Sydney Road, Coburg
4. Taita’s House, Thornbury
Book ahead if you want to break your fast with the banquet at this tiny Lebanese restaurant. It's $45 per person for the vegetarian option, or $50 if you want meat. It includes mezze such as dates, vegetable soup, hummus, pickles, loubieh bean stew, cheese sambousek, falafel, mujadara and fattoush salad. Plant-based eaters will dig into stuffed zucchini in spiced tomato sauce for main, otherwise it's grilled shish chicken, lamb kafta, rice, hot chips and toum. The feast finishes on a sweet note with homemade walnut and date maamoul biscuits and Lebanese coffee or cinnamon tea.
375 St Georges Road, Thornbury, taitashouse.square.site
5. Bolan Restaurant, Carlton North
Pakistani restaurant, Bolan, is all aboard the buffet train for Iftar. There are two-dozen items in the line up, with the cost per head $42.99 for adults and $21.99 for kids between five and 11 years old. Start with snacks such as dahi bhalay (fritters soaked in curd), move onto mains – perhaps goat karahi (a gingery Pakistani curry) and chicken boti (marinated kebab) – before finishing with gulab jamun (syrup-soaked doughnut spheres made from milk solids). Chicken nuggets, pasta and chocolate mousse will keep kids (and fussy eaters) happy. Come back another time for brain masala.
665 Nicholson Street, Carlton North, bolanrestaurants.com.au
6. Tiba's Lebanese Restaurant, Brunswick, East Brunswick & Roxburgh Park
One of Melbourne’s favourite and oldest Lebanese restaurants, Tiba’s, has a $40 set Iftar menu across all three branches ($25 for kids ages five to 12). It’s popular, so book ahead. Dishes vary slightly between each restaurant, but expect to start with dates, lentil soup, fatteh, mixed pickles, tabouli, chips, kibbeh nayyeh (raw, minced lamb) and dips (hummus, baba ganoush and yoghurt and cucumber). Mains might feature lamb mansaf (a traditional Levantine dish where lamb is cooked in dried yogurt and served with rice), Lebanese sausages, chicken wings, batatah bi kezbarah (potato with coriander) and shish chicken and kafta. Just save room for sweet, spiced mahalabia milk pudding.
504 Sydney Road, Brunswick
55-57 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
4/195 Somerton Road, Roxburgh Park
7. Balha’s Pastry, Brunswick
Serving Lebanese pastries for 30 years, Balha’s on Sydney Road has added some sweet specials for Ramadan. There’s small and large atayef (also spelled qatayef, a filled, folded pancake eaten during Ramadan), mahalabia fragrant milk pudding, karbooj (a nut-heavy semolina slab piped with meringue) and sahleb (a creamy Middle Eastern drink made with wild orchid powder, served with a pinch of cinnamon).
During Ramadan, Balha’s customers often order baklava and ashta mixed sweets. The latter includes desserts such as halawet el jobon (sweet cheese rolls), znoud el sit (filled filo pastry fingers), ward el sham (think a small, cream-filled filo sandwich) and knafeh (baked semolina filled with sweet cheese and sprinkled with ground pistachio nuts in rosewater syrup).
761-763 Sydney Road, Brunswick, balhaspastry.com.au
8. Lazzat Kadah, Coburg
Lazzat Kadah is usually an Indian and Pakistani restaurant, but the Ramadan buffet is international with mini pizzas, pasta and nuggets alongside more traditional dishes. Think all the breads, dips, chutney and dhal to start, with snacky dishes such as tandoori chicken, ground meat seekh kebab and falafel to follow. Larger dishes range from haleem lentil stew and chicken biryani, to veggie jalfrezi and slow-cooked lamb nihari stew. The dessert selection is huge, whether you prefer vermicelli pudding and carrot halva, or sticky date pudding and cheesecake. The Ramadan buffet is on between 5.30pm and 9pm Wednesday through Sunday. Adults are $50 per head and kids between three and 12 years old cost $25.
61/63 Sydney Road, Coburg, lazzatkadah.com.au
9. Leyalina, Carlton
Located on Lygon Street, Egyptian restaurant Leyalina is offering a set Iftar menu for $40. It kicks off with dates and sambousek (half-moon pies) and finishes with kataif (same as atayef) or lokmet el kadi (round doughnut balls soaked in sugar syrup). In between you'll pick a soup (yellow lentil or lesan asfour, which is like orzo) and one of five mains. The options include kofta and shish tawouk (grilled chicken) served with basmati rice mixed through with minced meat, spices and nuts; tagine of okra baked with lamb and tomatoes; molokhia (a thick soup made with chopped jute leaves and garlic) with rice and grilled chicken; koshari (a carb-heavy dish of rice, chickpeas, macaroni pasta, lentils and onion in tomato sauce); and lamb fattah.
191 Lygon Street, Carlton, leyalina.com.au
10. Nor Kitchen, Dandenong
This Malaysian and Singaporean restaurant runs a mini Iftar festival at this time of year. During the day from noon on Wednesday through Sunday there's a mini food bazaar, then from dusk until 9pm it's an all-you-can-eat buffet ($35 for adults and $15 for kids between four to eight years old). There is a huge selection of dishes, plus a number of vendors offering their specialties. Highlights include a live roti canai and murtabak station, a special Ramadan beef soup, a nasi minyak buffet (fragrant rice with a range of dishes you can add), Peranakan nasi rawon black soup made with the keluak nut, and charcoal chicken in percik sauce (tangy and salty, made with aromats such as ginger, turmeric and lemongrass).
2/78 Cheltenham Road, Dandenong, facebook.com
11. D'Kenyang Cafe, Dandenong
This local Malaysian spot has also set up a mini Ramadan bazaar which runs from 3pm to 10pm daily. Traditional dishes from different halal vendors are ready to take home in plastic containers, including jars of sambal, foil trays of skewered meats and satay, colourful drinks and juices and handmade kueh (desserts). It runs until April 17. They're also open for you to dine in for Ramadan.
2A Princes Highway, Dandenong, facebook.com/dKenyangCafe
12. Bowltiful Lanzhou Noodles, Melbourne
This halal noodle shop in the CBD specialises in Northern Chinese Gansu cuisine. While it's worth visiting for the nine different widths of hand-pulled noodles alone, during Ramadan there are special edition black sesame buns available for $3.80 each.
249 Swanston Street, Melbourne, bowltiful.com.au
13. Lezzet, Elwood
This Iftar, you can break the fast with a charitable heart at Lezzet. All proceeds from their $55 Iftar menu goes directly to Help Turkiye, an organisation that provides aid to the victims of the Turkiye-Syria earthquake tragedy. The menu starts with dates; continues with warm mixed olives, dips and date butter with bottomless Turkish bread; moves onto lentil soup with burnt butter oil; before a main dish of Orman kebab, served with rice and salad. There's also Turkish tea and baklava cheesecake to finish.
81 Brighton Road, Elwood, lezzet.com.au
14. Salero Kito, Melbourne
During Ramadan, Indonesian Padang restaurant Salerno Kito offers free dates to start and a traditional dessert of mixed mung bean porridge (bubur kacang hijau) or black glutinous rice porridge (bubur ketan hitam) to finish. Available with any a la carte or rice combination purchase $13 and over. Valid from 5pm onwards for Iftar.
9 Rose Lane, Melbourne, instagram.com/salerokitomelbourne
15. Tabla, Nunawading
How does this sound? Dates and soup, haloumi fries, falafel, dips, fried chicken, kofta, jewelled rice, shish tawook, a Middle Eastern dessert medley and a mocktail jug (between four) to break the fast at Tabla. Adults are $50, kids under 12 and five years old are $25 and $15 respectively, and anyone younger eats free.
141 Springvale Road, Nunawading, tablamelbourne.com.au
16. Mint & Co, Carlton
One of the more popular Ramadan buffets, Mint & Co Middle Eastern restaurant and shisha lounge puts on an absolute feast on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7pm to 9.30pm during the holiday. It's $59.99 per adult and half price for kids, with bookings essential. The spread includes soups, sliders, salads, cold cuts, pickles, dolma, pasta, fried snacks such as samosa, dips, okra stew, ice cream, baklava, a chocolate fountain and more.
62 University Street, Carlton, mintandco.com.au
17. Marcels on West, Hadfield
Sure, modern Lebanese restaurant Marcel's does one of the better Ramadan banquets in town for $55 (in fact, it does two, and kids are only $30), but there's also a special a camel burger on the menu. It's $23.50 with fries and available after Iftar until late, only during Ramadan. If that's still not enough to convince you, there's also a Ramadan dessert menu featuring more than a dozen sweets.
98 West St, Hadfield, facebook.com
18. Say Something Sweet, online
Shaliz Yahaya is a mother of two who runs a home-based business from Glenroy. She bakes halal cakes and desserts full time, but when Ramadan comes around, her orders pile up for the holiday and Eid. The best sellers are her chocolate-covered dates and Ramadan Calendar Cookie Set, which counts down to Eid the same way an advent calendar counts down to Christmas. The hand-painted sugar cookie set is a work of art, and there's also a paint-your-own version for the kids.
19. Yakamoz, Brunswick East
Yakamoz is a new restaurant by Ali Atay from Halikarnas just across the road, which he has opened in partnership with his son, Ogulcan. The name of the restaurant is a beautiful Turkish word that refers to moonlight sparkling on the ocean at night. They serve sharing-style dishes inspired by the Mediterranean coast, but here's also a $60 Iftar menu currently running. It includes: lentil soup; an Iftar plate of olives, dips, cheese and dates; slow-cooked guvec (a Turkish stew baked in earthenware pots); and Turkish coffee and rice pudding cooked in the wood fire for dessert. FYI, Halikarnas is also running Iftar specials.
74 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, yakamoz.com.au
20. KÖMÜR, Ascot Vale
KÖMÜR serves the best adana kebab (skewered lamb mince cooked on open flames) in Melbourne. While they don't technically offer a dedicated Ramadan menu, if you visit during Ramadan you can expect dates, lentil soup and sides to appear on the table with your order of lamb or chicken shish, chicken wingettes, lamb cutlets and adana. Such is the hospitality here.
446 Mount Alexander Road, Ascot Vale, facebook.com/komurmelbourne
BONUS: Ramadan Food Markets
Every year, the Australian Malay Foundation in the west holds the AMF Bazaar Ramadhan, which is on every Saturday of Ramadan between 1pm and 4pm at 46C Permas Way, Truganina (cash only). Expect satay cooked on charcoal, nasi lemak bungkus (coconut rice and dried anchovies wrapped in banana leaves), rojak (sweet and spicy fruit and vegetable salad), epok2 curry puffs, tapai (fermented glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves), apam balik (a sweet and thick aerated pancake also known as martabak manis), lots of homemade kueh (Malaysian desserts) and much more.
The Hume Islamic Youth Centre also puts on a special Ramadan Moonlight Market every Friday and Saturday of Ramadan from March 24 through April 8 at 1-15 Motto Drive in Coolaroo. It runs from 9pm until midnight for the first two weeks and from 8pm to 11pm on the third. There are local businesses, food stalls and food trucks.
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