A die-hard Melburnian who keeps being drawn away by luscious food and drinks. Be a pal and click the 'like' link below if you enjoy my article.
Published September 3rd 2014
Shebeen - good to everyone
Let's face it, the area around Flinders Lane is hardly wanting for cafés. Even bars are plentiful. It takes something really special to warrant a comment – and Shebeen has it.
The city is stuffed with cynicism. Everything from the passers-by to the reading material on tables – even the Big Issue sellers sometimes give in to it. It's hard to find anyone doing something good just for good's sake. That's why it surprised me when I read the title page on Shebeen's menu:
This wasn't blazoned out the front of the place. It's not even the biggest thing on the menu's front page. Look through the menu, though, and you'll see that charity is at the heart of Shebeen's ethic.
It explains so much. I'd wondered at the décor (couch cushion covers made out of old hoodies and windows made out of corrugated fibreglass) and some of the beers on offer, but this explained it all. It also made it kind of wonderful.
Shebeen designates profits from its drink sales to specific charities in the third world. Each charity has its own page in the menu, so you can pick your charities just as you would choose your food. Not only this, the venue makes it clear that the charities get their money with no fine print involved, so the funds can go directly to whatever that charity thinks it needs to do.
They've hit on a good thing. Picking a beer becomes a complex negotiation with yourself: yes, you like the idea of supplying books to kids overseas, but you're not that into ambers, could you cope with supporting a market garden scheme instead? Somehow it makes an afternoon tipple more interesting, if not more meaningful.
Shebeen has a short list of food on offer, and it's an impressive list for a place that doesn't have a full kitchen. The sliders caught my eye and I had to try at least two. The pulled pork slider was delicious, as pulled pork almost always is, with maybe a little too much chilli. The smoked tofu slider was a little more interesting, as the grilled eggplant with the tofu makes a more complex flavour mix on the tongue. I'm still not a fan of using sweetened bread for burger-like sandwiches and I never will be, so Shebeen's choice of US-style buns didn't win them any points, but we're not talking fine dining here. The food is toothsome and that's all you can really ask for.
The prices at Shebeen are a little miraculous for the city. Beers range between $6 (for a randomly selected lager can) and $9 (for something a little more special), house wines are around $9, and food ranges from $6 to $20. The sliders are a great deal, with $6 for one, $11 for two, $16 for three and $20 for four.
This place should be, needs to be packed to the roof with patrons, but at present it's still the hip little secret hiding away on Manchester Lane. I'm enjoying it while I can.