We all have those places dotted around the world, the country, our neighbourhood that give us a taste of home or take us back to our childhood or remind us of our loved ones. I’m one of the lucky ones as I have two places I get to call home. Give me a fresh out of the oven apple crumble with vanilla ice cream and I am transported to an English country pub on a crisp Autumn day. Give me manoush from family run, Lebanese bakery, A1 Bakery and I am transported to my mother-in-laws kitchen with Georges’ family all sharing and tearing apart freshly made manoush. This is the type of food that creates memories.
I wouldn’t go as far to say I am an expert when it comes to Lebanese cuisine, however, when you’ve been married to a pure bred Lebanese man for almost a year and been a part of his family for almost five, I like to think I least know the difference between good and not so good. And in my opinion this A1 Bakery in Brunswick, Melbourne is more than just good.
“Cheese manoush. It’s like THE best CHEESE toastie of your life.”
I was first introduced to this Lebanese bakery by my hubby Georges and every time a trip to Melbourne presented itself we made sure that A1 got a visit. On this occasion however, it was my turn to introduce it to Charlie, one of my best friends who was visiting from the UK.
Now we had just disembarked an overnight ferry from Devonport, Tasmania at 6:30am with very little sleep, zero caffeine and hungry tummies. So clearly A1 seemed like the perfect place to fill us up and wake us up.
A1 Bakery is situated on Sydney Road in Melbourne. It’s a large, cavernous cafe but the immediate warmth and comfort you feel walking into this family run place is unquestionable. Walking up to the counter I was greeted with a smile and a compliment (which I didn’t expect what with my shabby post-ferry appearance) but that’s the Lebanese for you.
I ordered one zaatar manoush, one meat manoush and one cheese manoush for Charlie and I to share. We parked ourselves near the front hoping that the sunlight streaming in would go some way in making us feel human again. The manoush arrived in a matter of minutes, freshly prepared and baked. The bread was incredibly soft, beautifully warm and bouncy and tore apart like cotton wool. It is by far the best manoush I have ever had…..and I’ve had my fair share.
“BIL haná wal shifá”
(May you have your meal with gladness and health).
My favourite of the three is the cheese. It is made with halloumi and is bold in flavour and perfectly salty. You must try the zaatar with it being a traditional flavour in Lebanese cooking. It is a mix of olive oil, oregano and sesame seeds. The meat manoush is hearty and filling and was Charlie’s favourite of the trio.
As if this breakfast could’t get any better one of the waiters (and son of the owner) brought us over a couple of baklava on the house. Not for any reason other than out of the goodness of his heart. I am a sucker for baklava so it was difficult to refuse and this baklava is something special. Their baklava is unlike others I’ve had. It’s not dripping in syrup, the pastry holds it’s crunch and it’s not too sweet meaning the flavour of the nuts still shine through. A little sugar hit definitely didn’t go a miss this morning.
Feeling full, satisfied and alive we said our goodbyes to the Lebanese Bakery family who in return wished us a great day ahead and hoped to see us again soon. If I could have had it my way, “soon” would have been lunchtime.