The influence of Salwa Moubarak touches just about everything at Gerard’s Bistro.
It’s in the saj breads (and sometimes pickles and labneh) that she produces for the restaurant each week. But it’s also in her passion for communicating a sense of place through food. It might be her son Johnny Moubarak who owns this James Street classic, but it was Salwa’s cooking for Johnny and his siblings, and the food of her native Lebanon, that inspired its inception.
“She plays a massive role,” Gerard’s head chef Adam Wolfers says. “The whole restaurant came about through them growing up with that traditional Lebanese food and I think that story continues. It’s a really big part of it.”
This Thursday, Salwa’s cooking will be front and centre when she and Wolfers collaborate on Salwa Moubarak x Gerard’s, a one-off meze menu designed for takeaway. Wolfers says the idea for the collaboration has been floating around for six months, but it felt appropriate to pull the trigger during the Covid-19 restrictions.
“It’s just a cool, different way of having a dinner at home, rather than having meat and three vegetables,” Wolfers says. “There are 10 different vegetables across the menu and heaps of different traditional and modern takes on things. So it’s going to be fun.”
Wolfers says the menu (priced at $50 per person) will combine Salwa’s home-style cooking (“it tastes like home, it’s made with the hands,” he says) with his more modern take on Middle Eastern food. Dishes include saj bread and labneh (of course), but also charcoal-grilled cabbage with king prawn and Lebanese mustard, and calamari cooked in toum-butter sauce with a tabouli of pickled tentacles, parsley, mint and cracked wheat.
“The flavours aren’t far off each other,” Wolfers says. “The only difference is I’m using more modern techniques. But it all works really well together.”
Looking beyond Queensland’s current dine-in restrictions, Wolfers says to expect more collaborations between the two in the future.
“[Salwa’s] is the real traditional style cooking that you can’t learn in a restaurant,” he says. “With a lot of these dinners, it’s just a really awesome way to see new ideas and techniques and to see the way people do things.”
Salwa Moubarak x Gerard’s takes over Gerard’s Bistro’s takeaway service on Thursday May 21. You can order pick-up and delivery here.