Sydney Road is one of my favorite parts of town, and it’s not hard to guess why… it’s Little Lebanon! well, Little Middle East, really, since it represents the flavors of the entire region from Turkey to Saudi Arabia and everything in between. the family run cafes, green grocers, kebab and pastry shops stretch for miles up Sydney Road, always leaving a reason to come back and try something new.
usually, i head straight to my mainstay halfway up the long street. this time, i stuck with the #19 tram a few stops longer, and ended up at Al-Alamy, just off the northern most side of Sydney Road in Coburg.
a bit of background: the Arab world is a vast and diverse one, differing in language, cultural norms and food. so when you hear your dialect, smell your food… it feels like home, like you belong there even if you’re a stranger in the crowd. since the main Middle Eastern population in Melbourne is Levantine like me (from Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Palestine), i get particularly warm and fuzzy when i head up there. when you’re far away from home, this is a coveted feeling. to say i found this and more at Al-Alamy would be an understatement.
my visit started with the ceremonial cup of
rocket fuel Turkish coffee, made with Al-Alamy’s house-roasted beans… the perfect boost of energy to look through the rest of the store.
what i found were walls of spices – everything from cinnamon to house-made allspice blends. all so reasonably priced. $2.50-$3.50 for huge amounts of cloves, shawarma mix, vanilla sugar, ras-el-hanout, cardamom…
beyond the spice racks are 4 back-to-back rows of bulk items: dried legumes, grains, fruits, lentils, coffee, and sweets. again all very reasonably priced (see $1.99/kg for corn?)
as i said, there are plenty of other great Lebanese cafe’s and markets in the area. but what made my visit to Al-Alamy so worthwhile was the staff. the service was beyond any other that i’ve had around the area. the staff was not only helpful but super friendly – one girl and i carried on quite a long conversation, like we’d known each other for years. i’d gone in looking for some coffee cups, but could only find sets of 12. when i told i only needed 2, she smiled and gave me two for $1. she then threw in my favorite ground coffee and a coconut candy free of charge.
a bit off the beaten path, and a bit longer on the tram (or you can park right outside!), but SO worth visiting. with a family-friendly atmosphere, ingredients and kitchen utensils of every kind and a helpful staff, it’s the perfect place to linger over a strong coffee, a snack, and a shoparound. first time to a Middle Eastern place? no better an introduction than this one.
6/51 Waterfield St, Coburg 3058
(03) 9355 8866