A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published May 15th 2017
A Middle Eastern Oasis in Port Melbourne
The recent demolition of Port Melbourne's London Hotel meant Middle Eastern restaurant Mr Lawrence found itself without a home. But not for long! In an interesting game of musical chairs, Mr Lawrence has moved a few doors down, to 67 Beach Street, Port Melbourne - the former premises of its sister restaurant Tenpin Kitchen. Meanwhile, Tenpin has moved to new nearby premises as well, at 49 Beach Street.
Mr Lawrence has recently relocated, but retains a prime waterfront position. (Image is from Mr Lawrence's Facebook page.)
Regardless of the reason for this reshuffle, both restaurants remain in prime locations, across the road from the beach, with ocean views. Mr Lawrence is almost directly across from Station Pier, from which the Spirit of Tasmania ferry departs; and in fact, from the upstairs floor of Mr Lawrence, where we were dining, we had great views of the ship as it left the pier.
The two-storey venue means there is plenty of room for diners and reasonable space between tables. Upstairs there is also a balcony - a great place to hang out with a drink on a sunny afternoon.
The cuisine at Mr Lawrence incorporates Mediterranean, Middle East and North African influences. The menu is divided into 'small' and 'larger' sections, as well as a Turkish pizza list, with an emphasis on sharing.
There have been some changes to the menu with the relocation, with some old favourites retained, and soon-to-be-new-favourites introduced, so it was time to pay a visit. Along with another couple, we were able to work our way through a good slice of the menu.
The meal started in a traditional way, with some dips. We tried the hummus with Aleppo mushrooms ($12) and the beetroot, dill and walnut dip ($12), served with Turkish bread ($4.50) and flat bread with zataar ($4). This was a great start to the meal. The mushrooms with the hummus gave it a point of difference. The combination worked really well. The beetroot dip was chunkier; I enjoyed the nutty flavour and texture contrasting with the softer beetroot.
Dips to start - hummus with Aleppo mushrooms, and the beetroot, dill and walnut dip
Next up was a selection of the smaller 'mezze' dishes: bastourma (cured beef, saffron pickles and marinated feta) ($13), ricotta fritters (served with tomato braised beans and dukkah) ($15) and Egyptian falafel with labne ($14). Of these, for me, the falafel was the stand out dish. It's such a simple and often served dish that it would need to be perfect to shine in this group, and perfect it was. That gorgeous crisp shell cracked to give way to a flavoursome filling that melded beautifully with the creamy, tangy labne. Yum!
Mezze dishes (from left to right): basturma, ricotta fritters, Egyptian falafel
In the next round we tried the house smoked trout with Lebanese potato salad ($16), the haloumi and feta boureks with date jam ($13.50) and the kissir - nut and grain salad with cauliflower and pomegranate. I couldn't fault these dishes and would happily order any of them again. I greatly enjoyed the crispy boureks, delicious with the unusual addition of the slightly sweeter date jam. The combination of ingredients in the kissir was inspired; it's a light and healthy dish and one that I'd love to replicate at home.
From top to bottom: house smoked trout with potato salad, haloumi and feta boureks, kissir
Mr Lawrence has a great range of Turkish pizzas, so that was next on the list. The spiced mince lamb pizza with mint, yoghurt and almonds ($19) looked delightful on the plate and didn't disappoint. The crust was super thin and super crispy, the topping generous and tasty.
There's great news on the pizza front, too; Mr Lawrence has a $10 special on its pizzas on Monday. There is a wide range of pizzas available - including seafood, meat and vegetarian options - so it's a great way to get your week off to a positive, low cost start.
The spiced lamb pizza and the chermoula salmon
Finally, for the savoury courses we had the chermoula salmon, fennel and spinach tagine with mograbieh ($29). Judging by the groans of pleasure around the table this was probably the dish of the night by a short half head. The slow cooking in the tagine meant the fish was moist and tender, and subtly flavoured, in a way that complemented and didn't overwhelm the fish.
Dessert was on offer, and how could one resist this option: Moroccan mess - rosewater meringue with berries, double cream and pashmak ($14)? This was an indulgent delight, heaven in every mouthful. A fabulous combination, with the berries saving it from becoming overwhelmingly sweet.
Desserts: the Moroccan mess and the Iranian date balls
A slightly less indulgent dessert was the tamariya - Iranian date balls rolled in toasted sesame and coconut. Any dessert would have struggled to compete against the mess, but the tamariya gave it a good run for its money, with the tasty little balls quickly disappearing off the plate.
Mr Lawrence also has a well thought through drinks list, which includes local and European wines by the glass and bottle, beers and ciders on tap and in bottles, and a range of cocktails. I tried a glass of the 2015 Domaine Les Fouques tradition Rosť (Provence, France). This beautiful light and fruity wine is produced from a biodynamic vineyard. I felt it was good value at $14 per glass.
Overall, it really was a delightful meal at Mr Lawrence. There are many more options to explore on the extensive menu, and I have a feeling we will be back very soon.
They also have a takeaway menu, with takeaway wines and beers also available - a great option for a sunny afternoon by the beach.
Mr Lawrence is open for lunch and dinner seven days, from 12 noon til late. Call in for a quick bite, a slow meal or a drink with a view.
Except where indicated, the images in this article were taken by the writer. They are not to be reproduced in any form without the express permission of WeekendNotes.