The Moor's Head
Rear 774 High Steet, Thornbury, VIC
03 9484 0173
In the continuous search for authentic cuisine there are bound to be disappointments. The hunt for a genuine dish made with the ancestral knowledge of generations gone by can be difficult. Misrepresentations abound, offered through gimmickry and relying on consumer ignorance. These forgeries muddy the waters of those searching for authenticity.
And for the culinary curious, the pursuit of foods from far off cultures made with traditional methods and using representative ingredients can be an essential aspect of their existence. So it would be curious to witness their views on ‘inauthentic’ cuisine. Yet, at The Moor’s Head, it seems as those cultural crusaders would appreciate the honesty.
Housed in a former radiator factory, that also went through a tailor’s workshop phase, the Middle Eastern pizzeria offers customers ‘inauthentic pizza’ in the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Thornbury. The classification of the restaurant in itself seems like juxtaposition, which apparently is the point. Instead of cleverly redefining and repackaging the menu to entice customers, the two have stuck to making quality food close to their heart and call it what it is: inauthentic. But that label should not dissuade anyone out of fear of quality, especially considering the head chef’s culinary history.
For those familiar with Joseph Abboud’s professional career, the talent in the kitchen precedes itself. The owner of Rumi has been recognised on numerous occasions for his culinary abilities, and teamed with John Farha, the pair bring a new twist to one of the most popular foods in the world. The two entrepreneurs formed a relationship in 2009 when John came on board as Manager at Rumi following industry experience at Bistro Thierry and Maha, both in Melbourne. The camaraderie soon became apparent and the pair wanted to open a casual eatery that combined their love of pizza with the Middle Eastern heritage they both shared. And a main part of that cultural similarity was the inspiration for the name of their pizzeria.
While it may arouse fanciful visions of ancient Mesopotamian legends, The Moor’s Head is actually a piece of equipment. It refers to the top of the still that is used to make arak, a traditional distilled alcoholic drink from Lebanon. Joseph and John’s affinity for the drink of their homeland led the two to name the restaurant after the integral piece in its formation. Plus, they thought it was a cool name.
The cultural pride is evident throughout the restaurant, manifesting itself in more than just the delicious toppings on the pizzas. Adorning the walls are several vintage Arabic movie posters, and the drinks menu not only has the ‘Arak of the day’ but also Lebanese wines and in-house hot tea. And of course, the food represents the culinary heritage passed down through centuries. On one specialty pide the combination of beef, onions, tomatoes, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves are combined and spread out on homemade dough and cooked on a pizza stone at high heat. The pizza is garnished with freshly sliced tomatoes, fresh chilli, baked slivered almonds, and fresh parsley and makes a perfect pairing with a cold glass of cold Arak. There may not be a more inauthentic meal available in Melbourne.