Brothers Miki and Igor Dodevski have fond childhood memories of their mother Vera Dodevska and their baba (grandmother) baking on Sunday mornings. Miki’s favourite dishes were banica – a hand-rolled, layered leek and cheese pastry – and pindjur, a relish of roast peppers, eggplant and tomato topped with feta.
“Waking up in the morning and having that for breakfast was just unreal,” Miki remembers. Now, both appear on the menu at the brothers’ cosy new Northcote restaurant, Lé Léé.
“My mum’s a chef. My dad loves hanging around the kitchen,” Miki says. “And we’ve been smoking our meats, keeping honey, and we’ve got a big organic garden at home – so we’ve always been into food.”
The Dodevskis owned the High Street site’s previous incarnation, a cafe named Ruckers Hill, but opening a proper restaurant has always been their dream, so they transformed it into the cosy diner in March.
“I guess it was just time for a change,” Miki says. “So, we decided to play back to our dream, and that was to build a Macedonian restaurant.”
Inside, distressed, peeling white walls expose red brick underneath. Pressed metal sheeting encases the bar, and wooden furniture creates a homely feel. Bench seating is topped with decorative cushions, and handwoven tapestries and garlands of garlic hang from above. A faux wooden balcony is installed over the entry to imitate a traditional Macedonian home.
According to Miki, the key to enjoying Macedonian food is to do as the Macedonians do. “Start off with some meze [share plates] and rakia [a traditional fruit brandy] and you sip that with your meat,” he says. Each meal also begins with a complimentary cube of bread dipped in oil to get you started.
Dodevska – a chef of 45 years – is in the kitchen plating up traditional Macedonian dishes such as shopska salad with tomato, cucumber and onion covered with grated feta; clay pots filled with slow-cooked beef, chicken, pork and mushrooms; sarma (stuffed, pickled cabbage rolls); and vegetarian baked moussaka. Other meze include taratur (a strained yoghurt dip); potatoes with feta; and a sour cherry and walnut baklava for dessert. There are 18 different types of rakia, ranging from grape to plum, pear, apricot and quince.
“The whole experience is about ‘you’ve come to my house, and I want you to enjoy the way we do it’,” says Miki. “It’s all about sharing, we spread everything in the middle of the table at home as well, everyone digs in and has a bit of everything. So it was about that recreating that Macedonian guest experience.”
236 High Street, Northcote
(03) 9031 6507
Wed & Thu 5.30pm–11pm