So today I say – get thee to Bayte (bay-tee)!
Bayte is a casual cafe/restaurant serving home-style Lebanese cuisine inspired by the chef’s grandmother’s recipes and childhood dishes.
It’s at the unfashionable side of Johnston Street in Collingwood and hence I don’t think it’s received as much love as some of the hip hotspots around the corner on Smith Street. I think that locals have discovered it and love it – but actually I believe it’s worth crossing town for.
The space is a tight split-level affair, with a sunny front communal table, smaller tables up by the kitchen and a graffitied courtyard. Bayte means ‘home’ in Arabic and the atmosphere is welcoming and warm with subtle Middle Eastern touches such as beautiful jewelled pendant lights and shimmering copper plates mounted onto the walls.
Breakfast is served all day from a menu which includes traditional breakfast items (eggs, muesli, pancakes) with a Lebanese touch. The lunch menu contains some filling and good value wraps (the most expensive is $11.50) and a mezze selection perfect for sharing, so go with a group.
Don’t miss trying the fresh-out-of-the-oven flatbread – a lightly charred, stretchy yet flaky vessel for scooping up the smokey homemade babaganoush ($8). Our party of three polished it off in record time and mopped the dish meticulously clean.
Another excellent dish was the Soubih el Sit – long cigars stuffed with minced lamb, onions, pine nuts and with unexpected hints of sweetness from pomegranate molasses. The filo pastry was a wonder – incredibly flaky layers with a delightfully light crunch and not at all soggy despite the juicy filling. A serve of the Soubih el Sit normally has two cigars ($9) so they happily accommodated us with 1.5 serves so we could have one each.
The falafel were not balls but in fact flat broad bean and chickpea patties topped prettily with freshly blended almond taratour still containing nut chunks, a thin slice of radish and sprinkling of dill ($8.5). It was a solid dish, perhaps not as awe-inspiring as the Soubih el Sit but still full of authentic flavour and interesting textures. Again we ordered 1.5 serves.
Of the larger meze we tried the Kafta Meshwi – lamb kafta skewers of mince and a generous grab bag of herbs, each bearing grill marks on the outside yet pink the middle ($12.5 for two). I loved these until I bit into the juicy chargrilled fillets of the Djaj Mishwi bi Toum mà Rebb el Ruman– fat grilled chicken skewers glazed with pomegranate molasses served with slices of barbecued potato and garlic sauce ($12.50). This was the finger-lickin’ dish that turned my developing love for Bayte into absolute adoration and it’s not to be missed.
To counter all that meatiness or if you’re vegetarian I recommend trying the Moghrabieh bi Khoudra mà Jibeen ($10.50). It contains two of my favourite Middle Eastern ingredients – chewy giant couscous and sweet pops of pomegranate seeds – combined with a generous amount of roasted vegetables and sprinkled with Lebanese cheese.
To finish off, try some homemade baklava ($3). It features that amazing filo pastry again and the filling is a nutty mixture, not too syrupy, fragranced with the heady scent of rosewater. A beautiful end to a fantastic meal.
We left Bayte happily sated and enthusiastic about returning soon. I look forward to discovering other dishes when their dinner service starts Friday 17 May.
Bayte, 56 Johnston St, Collingwood +61 3 9415 8818
Mon and Tue closed
Wed, Thur, and Friday – 11.30am till 11.00pm
Sat and Sun – 9am till 11.00pm