Who would have thought an old converted bus garage would become the best middle eastern-inspired restaurant in town? No surprise really, given chef Kurt Sampson’s time with Australia’s doyen of middle eastern food, Greg Malouf, the acclaimed Australian-born Lebanese chef credited with dragging middle eastern cuisine into the modern era.
The essence of Freo is captured with the striking blue sea container-cum-bar, stacks of outdoor seating and a vibrancy that the port city is renowned for. Staff here are super-likeable. Enthusiasm and menu knowledge are noticeable.
Designed to share, the menu is split into nibbles, garden, sea, paddock and from the oven. Self-explanatory stuff. The middle east is epitomised in a simple lamb stew with earthy, deep flavours and spice notes of cayenne, turmeric and ginger, sweetened with raisins. Dollops of labne and sprigs of coriander balance it nicely.
For those who like simple pleasures, aromatic za’atar flat bread with hummus is too good to refuse. Desserts are sometimes as aromatic and sweet as you’d expect, with heavy floral syrups, brik pastry, cardamom and almonds predominating.
They do breakfasts too, with a menu split between the traditional breakfast dishes and more middle eastern-inspired plates such as sour cherry and tahini toasted muesli; knafeh with cheese, raspberry, orange, crushed pistachios; mushroom and spinach sauté with kefalograviera (cheese) toast; and turlu turlu (Turkish) baked eggs with eggplant, potato, zucchini, chickpea and tomato.
(We had to do a Google search to understand many of these, but eating out should be a learning experience, right?)
With a menu this good, choosing isn’t easy. Let chef decide with his “let us feed you” option. At just shy of 50 bucks it’s a steal.