Late last year a familiar shopfront reopened on Rathdowne Street, but with a difference. The signage now reads ‘Malouf’s Zum Zum’, confirming that former Cafe Zum Zum is no longer in existence and that the original team behind the Middle Eastern venue has returned.

Amal and Geoff Malouf (Greg Malouf’s brother) first bought Cafe Zum Zum with friends in 2001. But four years later, despite the business doing well, Geoff sold his share to move to another opportunity – that being Mamaganoush on Chapel Street. But to build a strong community around the venue was more difficult. “Here [in North Carlton] we have our regulars, those people who come in once and then remain faithful. Conversely, Windsor is full of people always willing to try new things,” Amal says.

And so the couple took back ownership of the single room shopfront restaurant in early December with some fresh colour, mosaics and a huge new lantern hanging from the centre of the room. But this time it’s Amal’s baby and she’s busy heading up both the kitchen and front of house, while Geoff remains back in Windsor, running Mamaganoush.

Amal’s main intention was to improve the service and make a few changes to the menu (with some help from her brother-in-law Greg, chef at Momo). The result is a lighter menu that retains some Cafe Zum Zum favourites, such as mezze from selak (silverbeet rolls with rice and broad beans in a hot yoghurt sauce), tabouleh with young cos leaves and falafel with tahini, marinated feta and dukkah. New dishes include a slow cooked lamb shoulder with baharat spices and pumpkin, as well as a duck fatteh (twice-cooked duck with chickpeas and almond rice) and a sweet vanilla yoghurt pannacotta.

Food can be enjoyed with Lebanese and Turkish beer, or homemade lemonade with orange blossom – “sweet and sour, perfect to complement [the] dishes,” says Amal.

Malouf’s Zum Zum
645 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
(03) 9348 0455

Hours
Tues to Sun 6pm–10pm

zumzum.com.au