Many people will already be familiar with Abboud’s Brunswick East classic Rumi on Lygon Street, but his new venture The Moor’s Head is something out of the box.
The catchcry over at the Thornbury venue is ‘inauthentic pizza’, which is to say it is indeed pizza, but not the sort you’re thinking of. In truth, it’s manoushé (pronounced man’k’ousher), a Lebanese round pizza. And for those willing to veer even further away from the Mediterranean, there is also the long pide. Some of you may already be familiar with this type of fare if you’ve visited Mankoushé, on Lygon Street, A1 Bakery in Brunswick proper or Cedars, just up the road in Preston. Representative of more Middle Eastern cuisine, Lebanese pizzas utilise many alternative ingredients to the staple Italian or American pizzas.
At first sight, the manoushé appears not too dissimilar to any other pizza, but the pide is elongated and sometimes folded up at the sides like a canoe. Atop each of these two styles, there are several options to choose from, with names like Fred the Deaf (minced chicken, garlic, green olives, roquette), The Golden Terrace (minced beef, fresh tomato, chilli, almonds, lemon) and Istanbuli (pumpkin, tahini, dukkah, parsley). There are sweet options too, a concise wines list (two whites, two reds) and Lebanese and Turkish beers.
The interior is characterised by neat black surfaces and unvarnished wood, giving a casual feel to those who might choose to sit low together at a booth, at a table or elevated up on high stools by the street windows.
Abboud tells us that The Moor’s Head (which refers to the still in which the Middle Eastern spirit Arak is produced) brings something specifically new to the scene, in that it’s a proper Lebanese pizza restaurant (in the style of Supermaxi, Ladro, Mr Wolf) and is in every expected sense, a step up from the takeaway pizza norm (though you can takeaway here too).
As those who have been to Mankoushé, A1 or Cedars will know, delicious as they are, those places aren’t restaurants. And though they may be more in keeping with how Middle Eastern pizza is traditionally eaten, sitting down at a restaurant with a glass of wine is certainly a model which lends itself well to this Lebanese alternative, which is why Abboud is making this happen in Melbourne.