“I’m on a bit of a cultural crusade,” admits Joseph Abboud, sitting in his newest venture on Glenhuntly Road in Elsternwick, gesturing towards a copy of The Carton, a Lebanese-based food and culture magazine. As the owner and chef of East Brunswick’s Rumi, Thornbury’s The Moor’s Head and now Elsternwick’s The Moor’s Head, the man is set on impressing a Middle Eastern stamp across the city.
The original Moor’s Head opened in late 2011 and quickly carved a loyal following with its ‘inauthentic pizza’, elevating the cheap Lebanese pizza takeaway – a creature of greasy cheese and gluey pide – to a creation worthy of pride and attention. Abboud and his business partners John Farha and David Figlioleni then looked to expand somewhere new. “The north is so flooded now,” Abboud says. Abboud, Farha and Figlioleni didn’t know much about the Elsternwick area when they were driving down Glenhuntly Road and found a Middle Eastern bakery up for sale. Their focus shifted south east as they redesigned the bakery space,“This just came up and it was the right combination.”
Just over two weeks ago The Moor’s Head’s pizza made its debut south of the river with a sleek fit-out, house-made delicacies such as honey and thyme pickled carrots, and an assortment of imports including copies of The Carton magazine and Uludag Gazo soft drink – cans of which are stacked against the side wall. Lunch is available at this south-side outpost of the restaurant (unlike at its counterpart in Thornbury) and includes plates of grains and pulses, vegetables and meats such as bowls of freekah with pumpkin and feta, and spicy roast chicken with barberries. The pizza menu remains unchanged with toppings from minced beef, chilli and tomatoes, to za’atar, olives and labne. Starters include pickled vegetables and olives; baby peppers stuffed with feta and walnuts; and bastourma (thinly sliced cured beef).
With tables already booked out, the owners certainly seem to have got it right again. Yet despite the success Abboud acknowledges, “There’s a fatigue in Melbourne,” referring to new restaurants opening every week. “We don’t want to be the next big craze,” he says, “We just want people to enjoy it and see them again, see them next week.”
So are Abboud and his team looking to secure the west? “Everyone in Melbourne will have a favourite Moor’s Head pizza by the time we’re finished,” Abboud laughs. For a hot tip, keep an eye out around Seddon.
The Moor’s Head
480a Glenhuntly Rd, Elsternwick
(03) 9523 1198
Daily 11.30 am–10.00 pm