Auckland-based chef Elie Assaf (ex-Milenta) has brought his heritage to the fore with his Pitt Street shop Lebanese Grocer.
It's just off Karangahape Road, with a deep-olive-green exterior and a huge Saint Leo black marble counter dominating the inside space, along with the chrome open kitchen. Along the exposed brick walls are shelves lined with cans, jars and bottles of Lebanese pantry staples, and there’s an operational fireplace down one end.
Assaf says he had always wanted to do something of his own – a slightly nostalgic expression of his heritage and who he is as a person. His family moved to New Zealand from Beirut when he was 10 years old, and his parents own long-running Wellington favourite Phoenician Cuisine.
At Lebanese Grocer, you can pick up rose water and blossom water, Cortas canned fava beans and chickpeas, large jars of Durra pickles, Zwan luncheon meat, Lebanese olive oil, and other bits and pieces for a well-stocked pantry.
There’s also a concise daily menu for eating in – if you can nab one of the 10 stools along the counter or a table outside – or takeaway. There's “Elie’s special” shawarma, which changes daily, and falafel. Sides include tabbouli, a pickle plate, and trays of glossy ba’alawa (or baklava) displayed on the counter. Lebanese coffee and mint tea are available if you’re sitting in.
You might walk in and see trays of fatayer (savoury pies) and Lebanese pizza joining the ba’alawa on the counter. You can buy veggies Assaf sources directly from farmers, including Heirloomacy tomatoes, as well as New Zealand-made boutique staples like Honey by the Sea.
The plan is for the offering to evolve – keep an eye out for dining events, cooking classes and an expanded restaurant in the rear courtyard.
Phone: No phone