Confession: I cannot believe it has taken me so long to check out the exotic flavours of B'Stilla, a Moroccan restaurant tucked in the back streets of South Yarra. Under the expert guidance of Jason Jones (ex head chef of Mamasita) diners are in for an exotic treat- no passport required.
Entering B'Stilla on a chilly Autumn night, we are greeted warmly and offered a seat at the bar. B'Stilla offers a handful of tables of varying sizes inside as well as a covered alfresco area with a few more tables (perfect for warmer Melbourne nights) and a handful of seats at the bar. They do take bookings (Hallelujah), but also keep tables free for walk-ins. The overall feeling is one of warmth, with soft lighting, timber and mosaic tiles. Staff are friendly, personable and knowledgeable.
We begin with a 'Cucumber cocktail', which is presented in a glass with a scoop of lime green cucumber sorbet and a sprig of fresh mint accompanied by a mix of west wind's cutlass gin and tonic. Pouring the gin and tonic mix over the sorbet produces a theatrical effect which consumes my dining companion and I for a few minutes as we marvel at the ensuing bubbles. The perfect way to start our evening!
The menu at B'Stilla is designed to share and after seeking recommendations from the staff, we settle on a couple of entrees, a main to share and accompanying sides. First up: the Tangier BBQ'd octopus with tahini remoulade, sprigs of dill and crunchy slivers of eggplant that have been salted and lightly fried to resemble salt and vinegar chips. The octopus is perfectly grilled and the eggplant chips are a taste sensation!
I could not come to B'Stilla and not have the namesake pastry, a traditional Moroccan pie often served at special occasions and pronounced bee-stee-ya. Traditionally made with pigeon, B'Stilla's is made with a combination of duck and chicken with almond and saffron, encased in flaky pastry and topped with cinnamon and icing sugar. This was one of the highlights of the evening (even if my companion refused to try it...something to do with a pet duck! Oh well...more for me!) The pastry was delicate and the duck and chicken filling was hearty. The cinnamon and icing sugar dusting on top added a surprising and delicious sweet twist.
Next we were presented with the Mechoui slow roasted lamb shoulder with honey baked prunes. Accompanying this was a bowl of steaming, fluffy couscous flavoured with fennel, green olive, orange and honey. And the life changing plate of cauliflower, but more on that later. First; the lamb was slow roasted to perfection and fell apart with ease as we piled delicious juicy chunks onto our plates. The sweetness of honey baked prunes was a delicious Moroccan twist. Yum! I have long been a fan of couscous and often serve this at home for a quick and easy accompaniment to grilled meat and this was as good as any. However, what I could not get enough of was the cauliflower! This has transformed the humble cauliflower in much the same way as Mamasita transformed the humble corn cob. Seriously don't think I will be able to eat cauliflower any other way now. Lightly fried with ras el hanout (a mixed spice blend from Morocco), herbs and a pine nut sauce this dish blew my mind! Yum yum yum!
We finished the evening with comfortably full bellies, tastebuds still popping from the delicious Moroccan flavours. I will definitely be heading back to try more delicious fare from B'Stilla sooner rather than later. B'Stilla also offers a three or four course Moroccan banquet if you would prefer to leave the decision making to the kitchen. You can check out the menu here and this video giving insight into the story behind B'Stilla is well worth watching. Having just recently been awarded the Best Restaurant for 2014 in The Age Good Food under $30 Awards, I am sure B'Stilla will continue to build on its strengths.
30b Bray street, South Yarra, 3141
03 9826 2370
Tuesday-Saturday 5:30pm to late