Shaun Williams and Di and Will Keser’s ode to the New York City subway – Bowery to Williamsburg – on Hardware Street is now an ode to Tel Aviv. The change was inspired by a recent trip the trio took to Israel.
“We were in Paris and we thought we’d get out of the city, just as a spur-of-the-moment thing, and we decided on Israel because none of us had been there,” says Williams. “I’ve always loved Ottolenghi-style food, and we were just really inspired by what we saw there.”
Tel Aviv is also modelled on a casual overseas restaurant called Miznon, which, incidentally, has branches in Tel Aviv and Paris. Miznon serves unforgettably soft, filled pitas, and similarly memorable char-roasted vegetables (such as whole caramelised cauliflower). Similar renditions of both are on the menu at Tel Aviv.
Aside from pitas (wood fired by a local baker) stuffed with everything from haloumi and breaded eggplant, to beef kofta, the menu includes a range of salads, such as fatoush and a Middle Eastern grain salad. For breakfast and brunch there’s porridge made from Israeli cous cous with vanilla, rosewater, orange blossom and roasted peaches; Bircher made from freekeh; French toast made with challah; and five different types of shakshuka.
Drinks include the usual suspects – teas, Padre coffee, juices – alongside house-made mint lemonade and fresh sweet-mint tea.
“The layout of the space has essentially remained the same,” Williams says. “We have tried to display as much of the fresh produce we use as possible.” There are boxes of garden herbs in the window, and Israeli products that are used in the kitchen scattered throughout the space.
The new display case is filled with locally produced Turkish delight and baklava, and house-made cakes using traditional Middle Eastern recipes.
“We really thought this would be great in Melbourne, both for dine-in and for quick takeaway lunches,” says Williams.
The other, original Bowery to Williamsburg cafe on Olivier Lane is still operating as per normal.
123 Hardware Street, Melbourne
Mon to Fri 7.30am –3pm
Sat & Sun 8.30am – 3pm