There are many places you might have eaten heavyweight chef Tom Sarafian’s food in the past three years: The Australian Open; pop-ups at food-industry favourites including Lee Ho Fook, Pidapipo, Free To Feed and Maker & Monger; and even in your own home thanks to his line of Sarafian brand hummus, toum and harissa.

Sarafian, hasn’t held a permanent role at a restaurant since Bar Saracen, where he worked as head chef for over three years, closed in 2021. But now the chef plans to open two CBD spots this winter: restaurant Zareh, and daytime eatery and deli Sarafian.

Sarafian has teamed up with restaurateur and Mulberry Group founder Nathan Toleman (one of the key figures in Melbourne’s early 2010s cafe wave who is behind venues including Hazel, Lilac and Dessous) on the openings.

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At Zareh you can expect to find signature Sarafian dishes from his Bar Saracen days including his gilda, cheese maamoul, and king prawns and spanner crab served over hummus. Sarafian’s menu will showcases the flavours of the Levant and span into the Caucasus region and North Africa.

There’ll be a custom-made Armenian barbeque and an emphasis on different kinds of breads made using the venue’s woodfired oven.

Zareh is named for Tom’s paternal grandfather, an Armenian man who brought his family to Australia from Egypt in the 1960s and, as Sarafian wrote in an Instagram post in 2022, “hustled his way into Melbourne’s French restaurant scene” and instilled a love of food in his family.

In a statement about the restaurant Sarafian said, “I’ve always been inspired by the flavours of my upbringing – Arabic and Armenian dishes – and I’m proud to dedicate this restaurant to him and my family.

“Some of my favourite childhood food memories are of the great feasts my grandparents would cook at their home in Mulgrave. We would only ever eat Egyptian and Armenian food when we visited them, so growing up these things were always very exciting.”

The offering will also be inspired by a recent research trip Sarafian and Toleman took to Los Angeles, where they explored the city’s rich Armenian restaurant scene.

Sarafian will be a more causal spot inspired by daytime eateries and delis in Beirut. It will serve Arabic breakfasts and lunches, and sandwiches and salads to takeaway. There’ll be Sarafian’s trio of products, as well as cheeses, jams, cured meats and freshly made yoghurt. Sarafian is also working with small producers and farmers in Lebanon to offer Arabic spices like sumac and mixes like za’atar.

While the country’s 2023 pop-up prince may need to hand his crown over to a new heir, the city is lucky the chef and juice aficionado has two permanent homes.

Zareh and Sarafian are due to open in the CBD this winter.

@zareh.melbourne