It’s now one of Melbourne’s most thriving dining hubs, but Brunswick East was a much different place when Joseph Abboud first opened his Middle Eastern restaurant Rumi there in 2006.
“When we started on Lygon Street, there was nothing around us,” he tells Broadsheet. “We sort of started a village there, at risk of overstating it.”
Drawing on dishes from his Lebanese heritage and from around the Middle East, he attracted a community that helped propel his eatery to institution status.
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But all good things come to an end, and when Abboud’s lease ended three years ago, he knew he’d have to find a new home. Luckily for locals, he’s stayed in the neighbourhood, setting up shop at East Brunswick Village, just a main road away.
Plenty will be familiar to Rumi regulars. Mainstays like the haloumi and feta-filled sigara boregi (crisp cheese cigars) and lamb shoulder marinated in advieh (a Persian spice mix usually containing cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, coriander, rose petals and nutmeg) have made it onto the new menu. They’re all prepared in a purpose-built, fully-electric – save the charcoal grill, which is used across a third of the menu – kitchen.
There are also a few new offerings including a harissa-rubbed barbequed half-chicken with a condiment, mulukhiyah.
“It's popular in Egyptian cooking and around the eastern Mediterranean,” Abboud says of mulukhiya. “It’s actually very similar to warrigal greens, so we’re making the traditional version with [them].”
The new location will see an extended beverage offering, taking the wine list from around 20 to over 100 Australian and Middle Eastern bottles.
“We’re really trying to champion the Middle East and what we're calling the old, old world … We’re referring to it as the cradle of civilisation; those really early winemakers.”
The design also takes influence from the region with notes of bronze, copper and deep green. The new Rumi seats 80, while there’s an 80-person function space plus some outdoor seating that Abboud intends to reserve for pre-dinner drinks.
.Abboud and his wife Nat Abboud have also opened an all-day wine bar called Rocket Society, located just across the way from Rumi. There, they serve Lebanese flatbread sandwiches by day and meze by night, catering to run-off traffic from the precinct’s Fomo Cinema from the Cinema Nova team.
2 Village Ave, East Brunswick
03 9388 8255
Mon to Sun 5.30pm–9.30pm