Have you ever had kibbe? Those fried, football-shaped beef croquettes you get on a mezze platter? Maestro and Co, Manly’s new Middle Eastern restaurant does an excellent baked version.

“My dad is Australian-born Lebanese. He's never been out of the country, but we've still been eating Middle Eastern food since I could chew,” says owner Graeme Moses. “The kibbe was the one thing that was non-negotiable on the menu for me.” It comes as a dome, with mint yoghurt and pine nuts; it’s sumptuous, salty and soft. “It's loosely based on our family recipe but with the chef's embellishments,” says Moses. That chef is Bektaş Özcan who has worked at Jamie’s Italian, Pyrmont’s impressive Lebanese pop-up Baraka and Efendy.

Özcan’s silken, soft, signature lamb shoulder with smoked-eggplant puree and twice-cooked potatoes has made it over from Baraka, as has his colourful mezze dips and handmade spelt bread. The new dishes are equally vivid in colour and flavour. There’s a whole rainbow trout encircled by charred lemon, brocollini and savoy cabbage; compressed watermelon with goat’s cheese and air-dried beef; or a beautiful arrangement of citrus-cured scallops over a crumbly hazelnut tabouli.

Moses says the food isn’t traditional home-style or anything experimental, but somewhere in between. “I always thought Manly would suit a modern take rather than Cleveland Street home-style food,” Moses says, particularly considering it’s the first Middle Eastern restaurant in the area (apart from kebab takeaways). The weekend brunch includes breakfast fattoush with house-cured salmon, avocado and aged feta, or pomegranate-molasses-sweetened hummus with slow-cooked pork, lamb shoulder or Lebanese spiced chicken.

The restaurant has a bar-like area – the back counter serves Middle Eastern-themed cocktails to walk-ins on stools. Moses and his brother (a furniture designer) have stripped the dark paint from the previous bar and replaced it with lighter tones showing off the timber flooring, exposed bricks and copper bar. “A lot of people are going for that dark vibe, but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted it to be lighter,” Moses says. “We’re near the ocean, at the end of the day.”

Maestro and Co
50 East Esplanade, Manly
(02) 9976 3065

Hours:
Tue to Fri 4pm–12pm
Sat & Sun 10am–12pm

maestroandco.com.au