Bayte has been on my “oh dear god you need to visit this place NOW, what is wrong with you?” list for, well, basically forever. Potential delicious Lebanese food times cannot be ignored. I was however stymied several times in visiting due to both their erratic opening hours (they see to have settled down now and are reliably open for lunch and dinner from Wednesdays to Fridays and from 9am-11pm on weekends), and the fact that whenever I tried to visit they were groaning at the seams without room for yet more patrons.
Clearly I was going to have to scheme to visit at a less popular time. Utilising my “how to walk into a table at Chin Chin” timing rule, I waited until 3pm one Saturday afternoon to saunter in with Julian in tow. Behold! Many a free table was awaiting us! See, starving yourself for hours to eat at an unfashionable time does have it’s benefits.
Since it was drifting into late-afternoon, the menu was restricted to the mezze options, but there were so many of these to choose from that we didn’t feel at all constricted in terms of choice. Luckily we were able to order quite a few of the items that Where’s the Beef had enjoyed during their visit, whose enthusiastic post was at the forefront of my mind.
To start with I insisted we had to have some of the chargrilled flatbread, which had been universally recommended to me by those who had Bayte-d before me, plus anything that we could smear the flatbread with. Hence the generous dishes of labne and baba ganoush that quickly arrived. The labne was handmade, as far as I could make out, ridiculously smooth and that face-twisting kind of tart that only really fresh yoghurts can create. The baba ganoush was smoky and a very impressive example of the difference between freshly made and the rubbish you get in the supermarket. A warning though that the chargrilled bread is truly excellent and you will be in danger of over-ordering it in order to eat it with everything, which could get sneakily expensive.
Being me, I couldn’t go past any mention of potato, so insisted that we order the bataata meshwi – barbequed potatoes served with homemade tomato sauce. SWEET BABY JEEBUS THESE ARE DELICIOUS POTATO CRACK. You must order these. Dunk them in the thick, also smoky tomato sauce (more a chutney or jam, really), and really savour the crispiness without and the fluffy within. UGH SOMEONE BRING ME SOME NOW.
At $5 a pop, we were rather hoping that the single felafel served with almond taratour, radish and baby coriander would prove to be the most amazing felafel to have ever graced tastebuds. Our doubting ways brought us undone – this is a felafel as close to being worth $5 as you are going to find. The felafel itself is soft and deftly combined, with no harsh grainy texture, and well spiced. Topping the felafel with the petite radish wedges was the real stroke of genius, with the sharp, juicy crispness contrasting in a delightful fashion with the felafel itself and the smooth taratour.
I very quickly followed by this pleasing first visit with an evening one a week or so later on my lonesome. On that occasion I started with the pumpkin kibbee, two fat, crumbed balls of fried pumpkin hiding a caramelised centre of onions and almonds, surrounded by a generous moat of hummus. Very more-ish indeed!
My main meal was the bamieh bi zayt, an okra, tomato and olive oil stew with walnuts, sliced chilli and scads of fresh coriander. This is the type of dish you’re not going to get anywhere else, and I really recommend ordering it with a serving of the flatbread so that you can mop the bowl clean. Perfect for the last few cold nights Melbourne has in store us.
As should be obvious, Bayte was everything that all the press and stories from friends had promised it to be. It’s possibly a *touch* expensive, but I would argue that the quality of what you receive more than shores up those few extra dollars. Besides the food, the staff are lovely, the space is so nice to sit in (seriously go back to that Where’s the Beef post and look at at the pics), it is just a complete package. Get on it, and don’t blame me once you OD on flatbread.
56 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Ph: 9415 8818