The city of Byblos is claimed to be the oldest consistently inhabited metropolis in the world. This small coastal Lebanese city quickly became famous for its rich culture and an abundance of new and advanced ideas. One such element is the lavish food and hospitality created within – compiled with longstanding traditions that have made their way to Melbourne’s WTC Centre, Docklands at Byblos Bar and Restaurant.
Before a morsel of food is set on the table, the restaurant itself sets the scene. Step into a world of old-school glamour decked out in traditional middle eastern interiors. Think deep red crushed velvet furnishings, moody lighting, exposed curved brickwork and Persian drapes.
On the table, you will find a collision of Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine with an imaginative twist and a nod to modern trends. The kitchen is led by Head Chef, Nicholas Mattar, whose flair for Lebanese cooking was learned in his hometown of Jounieh, a coastal city just north of Beirut. Each dish is crafted with traditional Mediterranean tastes and techniques in mind, to which Nicholas adds a little modern Melbourne pizzazz. Take, for example, the selection of Mezat dishes, like Makanek with red wine, olive oil and pine nuts or Koosa Baked Zucchinis stuffed with grilled lamb and spiced rice. Eating ‘Mezat’ means eating socially, surrounded by the hungry hands of family and friends around the table.
The menu takes the spirit of Mezat eating and translates it to a fine dining, yet approachable, situation. For those looking to share, head towards Mixed Grill Platters with Lamb Cutlets, Lahim Meshwi and Skewered Prawns served with hommos and tabbouleh, or Middle Eastern Ratatouille with eggplant, tomato, garlic, onion, saffron and sultana rice topped with cauliflower, capsicum, zucchini and olives.
With dishes of this calibre trailing out of the kitchen, it’s easy to get carried away. However, it’s important to leave room for dessert, as the Coconut Mouhalabeh with caramelised coconut and pistachio is not something that you will care to miss out on.
If dessert isn’t your style, treat yourself to a cocktail. The seasonally influenced list contains tipples like Rye N Gosling; a concoction with Rittenhouse rye, Goslings rum, Pedro Ximenez and plum bitters, the All Work and No Grey; a drink with Encanto Pisco, St Germain, Yellow Chartreuse, French Earl Grey and lemon juice, and new takes on classics, like the Violet Martini with cranberry vodka, violet liqueur, cranberry juice, lemon and house-made rhubarb syrup. Cocktails aside, the spirit and wine lists are extensive. Labels are peppered with names of countries and producers from far and wide, as well as those a little closer to home.
Byblos captures the glamour and lavish hospitality that closely associates with its Lebanese origins. Pair this with the refined approach to modern dining on the banks of the Yarra at Docklands and it’s an experience that could only be described as old world meets new.