Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published December 7th 2011
Sydney Road in Brunswick is a real cultural experience. It offers a cornucopia of different and interesting places to eat, including Lebanese, Vietnamese, Italian, Japanese, Greek and Turkish food as well as your standard coffee-and-pizza cafe. The largest – and best – of the Lebanese restaurants is Tiba's Lebanese Food, a fairly upmarket place for where it sits (It's on 504 Sydney Road, up the more dodgy end). However, while it might be upmarket, Tiba's is certainly not stingy: if you try to order like you would in a normal restaurant, you'll wind up with more food on your table than you could eat in a week.
Take the mixed grill platter, for instance. It sounds innocuous enough – a plate with a heap of grilled things on it – and you might be tempted to order it as an entrée, or in place of a regular meal. The waiter will tell you that it serves one, but apparently Tiba's Lebanese Restaurant caters to the kind of person who can eat a whole goat for lunch and still be hungry at dinnertime. Definitely share the mixed grill platter between at least two people: you'll save money and not be pressured into eating enough to make yourself sick It's sixteen dollars, so eight each, but you might want to budget a few more dollars for breath mints afterwards – the dips can be quite garlic-y.
The kebabs and individual plates are delicious as well. Try the lamb cutlets or falafel or, if you're feeling brave, the Lebanese red sausage. It's a little strange, but it probably grows on you over time. The quail is juicy, and the cheese pie is, well, cheese pie. The distinguishing feature of the food at Tiba's Lebanese Restaurant is that there is no distinguishing feature. Everything is reliably normal, without any fancy culinary trickery. Like Thresherman's Bakehouse or the famous Don Don, Tiba's delivers tasty cheap food – and lots of it. Unless you go way overboard, you won't be paying more than ten dollars per person.
Tiba's Lebanese Restaurant is a Muslim establishment, which is made clear in three ways. Firstly, the waitresses are all wearing veils (although it doesn't at all impede their ability to take orders.) Secondly, the restaurant has a strictly no alcohol policy, and big neon signs sit in the window to this effect. The lack of a liquor license and the religious prohibition against drinking work together here. If you simply can't eat kebabs while sober, then you should seek professional help – but until then, have a few drinks at one of the many bars on Sydney Road before you head down to Tiba's. Thirdly, there's a curtained prayer room at the back of the restaurant for Muslim customers. Don't worry about being unwelcome if you're not Muslim, though. The clientele on any given night is vibrant and eclectic, from exhausted taxi drivers to off-work tradies to businessmen looking for a relaxing time.
Overall, don't go to Tiba's if you're looking for fine dining. The staff can be surly at times, and you're expected to get your drinks out of the cabinet yourself. It's possible to think of Tiba's Lebanese Restaurant like the Lebanese version of Danny's Burgers – quick, cheap, a little chaotic, but generally delicious.
Did not take me long to find Tiba. Apparently A1 is their major competitor & I did go there but there was tabouli left at 3pm. No way. After some other wasted visits to others along Sydney Road I finally shouted T I B A is the best. and only Lebanese food in Melbourne. Mellifulous Mel