Cafe Zum Zum sits behind one of several heritage listed wrought iron verandas in Rathdowne Street, North Carlton, not far from Curtin Square. You're unlikely to find kerb crawlers and traffic congestion along this historic strip of mainly Victorian terrace houses, thus allowing for a pleasant al fresco dining experience .
One cold December night (yes, typical Melbourne Summer weather) we renounced the warm interior of this restaurant with its twinkling Moroccan lanterns and assortment of decorative Arabic coffee pots for a meal out on the pavement. Screened from the road by a transparent awning and warmed by an outdoor heater, our snug table was promptly served a continuous selection of dishes from the generous and reasonably-priced banquet. Our charming, fez-wearing waiter assured my dining companion that her intolerance to egg and lactose would be diligently accommodated, and indeed it was.
The dishes here are sophisticated both in presentation and taste and the menu is drawn from several Middle Eastern regions. There's a touch of North Africa in the liberal use of spices, particularly in the chicken tagine with olives and chickpeas. The Lebanese influence can be seen in the use of fresh herbs like mint, parsley and coriander while the presence of nuts and fruits suggest an Iranian origin.
This is no slapdash eatery. All courses were beautifully cooked and served on white crockery and earthenware dishes. The lamb shish kebabs were tender with a hint of pink and the fetta and mint pastries, which resembled Vietnamese spring rolls, were polished off in no time. A surprising sweet addition was the pomegranate essence drizzled over the filo pastries filled with minced lamb and pine nuts.