When stage-three lockdown resumed in Melbourne earlier this month, Gene Kapaufs, the owner of new Yarraville cafe Advi’s Falafels, was prepared.
Kapaufs, who’s also behind nearby Middle Eastern restaurant Advieh in Seddon, had recently refitted the space (previously home to his cafe Little Advi), turning it into a counter-service-focused falafel joint.
After a visit to Europe with his partner, he’d been inspired by the takeaway-first approach of many of the cafes there, which don’t offer table service but aren’t your typical fast-food joints. “Fancy takeaway,” is how he describes it, with a laugh.
The all-vegetarian, mostly-vegan menu is centred around Lebanese-style split pea and chickpea falafel. It’s served on pita, like an open souvlaki, accompanied by hummus and four salads, which Kapauf’s mother prepares daily.
“Mum doesn’t like planning ahead or organising anything,” Kapaufs says. “She pretty much she just does whatever she wants.”
On any given day, the staple pickled-cabbage salad might come with Italian-ish green beans cooked in Napoletana sauce, a ratatouille-style roast veggie salad or a lentil dal.
Another permanent fixture (and the only thing that’s not vegan) is the crisp haloumi fries, which are same as at Advieh, where Kapaufs guesses he sells about 80 kilos of them a week.
The “chips” are slices of deep-fried haloumi, served with pomegranate molasses and yoghurt zhooshed with mint, dill, coriander and lemon – plus chilli, if you’re so inclined.
“My mother and I don’t really like using animal products or eating meat,” says Kapaufs. “We don’t want to preach too much, but if you can do something with that in mind, it’s a little step in the right direction.”
That includes the baklava, which is made using Nuttelex instead of butter, and a spiced sugar syrup rather than honey. “What makes it really different is we make our own syrup, cooking down the sugar and throwing in spices,” he says.
Other vegan desserts include gluten-free orange cake and rose-topped mini cupcakes – what’s in the cabinet depends on what Kapaufs’s mother is in the mood for.
Coffee can be made with soy, almond or oat milk, and there are three fresh-squeezed juices and three banana-based smoothies (ranging from avocado and apple to chocolate and peanut butter).
Kapaufs says he wanted to open a takeaway joint that didn’t feel like one. There are large front-facing windows, exposed brick and white-tiled walls, and colourful handmade stained-glass lanterns imported from Morocco.
“A lot of takeaway places look a bit shit,” he says. “We want people to come in and say how nice it looks.”
Advi’s Falafels is currently open for takeaway only, in accordance with the stage-three lockdown.
16 Ballarat Street, Yarraville
(03) 9396 1841
Tue to Sun 11am–3pm (hours subject to change depending on restrictions)