Cafe Sunshine & Salamatea
Cafe Sunshine & Salamatea serves up Persian breakfast staples by day and banquets by night. Co-owners Hamed Allahyari and Jen Morillas – who met while volunteering at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) – are behind the day-to-night eatery, which they opened to help other refugees and asylum seekers upskill and find work.
For breakfast, you might try the date omelette, called khorma (the Persian name for date), a sweet dish finished with butter and a little cinnamon. Or the home omelette loaded with feta, fresh mint and dill. Noon o panir o sabzi – which means bread, cheese and herbs – is another Iranian breakfast staple. Here, it might be Turkish bread served with Persian feta; a walnut mix; jam and butter; tahini mixed with grape molasses; and halva served with black tea.
After dark, the eatery goes by Salamatea, with an evening menu of simple Persian fare. The banquet is an excellent entry point to understanding Persian flavours. It might weave together a feast of bread and dips (such as hummus or beetroot); vine leaves filled with rice; chickpea-and-bean felafel; fesunjun, a sweet-and-sour chicken stew cooked with pomegranate molasses, walnut paste and saffron, and served with saffron rice and pistachios; and pistachio baklava to finish. A standout taste of Persian home is the ghormeh sabzi, a tangy stew packed with herbs and considered by many to be the national dish of Iran.
The drinks list has a selection of Victorian wines and beers from Two Birds, but don’t miss the tea. Salamatea is a play on the Persian word salamati, which means “cheers”, and also references the Iranian love of tea. Allahyari also makes his own sour-cherry and saffron teas – the latter dubbed “giggle tea” because of its supposed anti-depressant properties.
The team aims for zero waste, using glass jars instead of takeaway cups. Empty wine bottles are returned to Rewine for re-use. Schulz Organic Dairy milk is decanted from a 10-litre vat; almond and soy milks are made in-house; and Waste Ninja collects compost.
You can buy books, too, from a small selection highlighting local authors, people of colour and with culturally diverse backgrounds, and authors from the LGBTQIA+ community.
In some ways, the space is a reincarnation of Allahyari’s restaurant back in Tehran. In 2012, that shut down when he was forced to flee the country – because his views on religion differed from those of the government. Allahyari and his then-pregnant wine crammed into a small boat with 118 others, eventually ending up on Christmas Island where they were detained. Allahyari was eventually given a bridging visa and the pair headed to Melbourne. Two years and dozens of job applications later, he couldn’t find a job. It took volunteering at ASRC for him to find paid work with Free to Feed. Today, running Cafe Sunshine & Salamatea is his and Morillas’s way of making that process far easier for asylum seekers and refugees.
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