“Moorish is the cuisine from the region covering Spain all the way to Egypt,” says co-owner of Moorish Blue, Jamil Ben Hassine. “It is modern North Arabic and North African food. A little bit Moroccan, Tunisian and Spanish.”
Moorish food celebrates intense flavours and the heavy use of spice. “We use a lot of cumin, coriander power, turmeric and lots of cinnamon. They can be spicy or sweet if they are balanced in the right way.”
Hassine wants diners to experience Tunisian hospitality at its best and feel welcome. “I think the reason a lot of restaurants open and fail in Sydney is because people spend millions of dollars setting them up but they miss the point of embracing people coming through their door,” says Hassine. “If you are coming into my restaurant it should be like coming into my home.”
Stand-out dishes include zaatar salt-and-pepper squid with fried egg and lemon; pan-seared barramundi served with black chickpeas, leaks and tahini; and grilled loin of veal with caponata and yoghurt dressing. A personal favourite of Hassine’s is the Tunisian brik, made with thin pastry stuffed with potato, capers, tuna, fresh herbs and a runny egg. “We shallow fry it so it is nice and crispy on the outside, but when you cut through it the yolk is runny. It is a beautiful entrée.”.
For dessert, classic dishes are given a North African twist. “We do a rosewater panna cotta with chocolate fairy floss, and a tiramisu with Turkish coffee.”
The main section of Moorish Blue extends into a row of arches. Upstairs, the cocktail bar hosts a belly-dancer show on weekends. An outdoor shisha lounge allows patrons to stretch out and relax with a pipe after their meal. A separate room, called the “chef’s table” seats 10 people and leaves you in the hands of Moorish Blue’s chefs. “There, we feed the customer what we want,” says Hassine.