That North Fitzroy's Moroccan Soup Bar is an institution, that is without doubt. How a meat-free and alcohol-free restaurant with no bookings and no menu became so is the intriguing question.
Yet, the answer is simple – it serves good, hearty soul food at very reasonable prices, and has done so for about twenty years.
Moroccan Soup Bar's enduring popularity and no-bookings policy do require a game plan. If you want a chance of securing a table straight away, arrive at 6pm on the dot or post the dinner rush at around 8.30pm. At any other time, be prepared to wait 45 minutes to an hour.
But that's OK; leave your name with one of the friendly ladies in charge, and head next door to Monkey Bar – or slightly further up the road to Deco Wine Bar – to sit out the wait with a drink in hand.
Once you're in, the earthy toned walls and colourful scatter cushions, combine with exotic photos and lanterns to create a homey atmosphere with the allure of faraway places. As you squeeze into your allotted table, you'll barely have time to cast your eye about before a mint tea is presented. You'll then be offered the option to order specific dishes or partake in the three course banquet. At $18 a head, most diners opt for the latter.
Minutes later a plate of dips, bread and vegetables arrive, with some of the best hummus you'll taste. A word of caution here; as yummy as it is, go slow on the bread, you'll need the room later!
Next up will be an assortment of main dishes. These change from time to time, but will invariably involve couscous and deliciously roasted vegetables. And, of course, the stellar chickpea bake. Nutty, crunchy and buttery, this moreish dish will keep you coming back. I'm telling you, it's a revelation, it's so damn good.
To end, comes coffee, strong and middle-eastern style, accompanied by a sweet treat. Baklava fans will not be disappointed.
As for the name, there is soup available. But most never get that far.