I like a place where the food is good. I like a place where the food is different. But when you combine a place where the food is very good and very different, well then I just love it. And while it's only been open for a few months now Bayte is definitely bringing something very different to the table, a delicious middle-eastern style slant to beginning your day.
Actually the food isn’t all I love about this place, as our visit was a clear proof of the possibility of love at first sight. I thought it was one of the most photogenic cafes I’ve been to in Melbourne, with lots of things to catch the eye. The lighting at the window into the kitchen area, the way the larger communal table had been set, the painted roller door in the courtyard area, a leaning Lebanese cookbook, everywhere I turned there was something which I wanted to look at.
The service was excellent as well, bright and cheerful with a smile which that said ‘Welcome to our new place – we're very proud of it’. Honestly, there are some people who are born to be front of house staff, who with a word can make you feel like a welcome guest than a paying customer. The staff here have it in spades.
So by this stage we were probably already set on liking Bayte, it was actually the unusual menu that had drawn us to the other side of town. Pearl Barley porridge, semolina pancakes, an omelette with labna, poached or fried eggs with middle eastern spices, it was one of those days when the number of interesting options makes it hard to choose. After many minutes of deliberation we settled on the fried eggs with sumac and lamb kafta, the poached eggs with zaatar and the semolina pancakes for breakfast dessert.
The poached eggs with zaatar came with pumpkin kibbe and house made babaganoush (beyd bil zaatar). Kibbe is something I don’t remember having before, but it reminded me of a pressed cake or possibly a hash brown, with a nice, crispy outer shell but a soft warm interior. Add delicious flavours from the pumpkin and other ingredients and you have what Snooze thought was the best part of our meal. The babaganoush (eggplant dip) was good but more familiar, and while it initially looked like the poached eggs had been over spiced with the zaatar it turned out to be a perfectly balanced mix of spice and egg with neither dominating. Eggs perfectly cooked too, full of golden runny yolk.
Snooze went with the fried eggs and kafta (beyd meli bil summael kafta meshwi). Kafta is a ground meat dish and my experience is that it's often a bit dry when served. Here though the meat was perfectly moist, full of flavour and perfectly seasoned. The fried eggs were again perfectly cooked although I didn’t notice the citrusy flavours of the sumac (made from crushed berries) coming through.
One of the things we discussed with our waitress was the concept of breakfast dessert. While it had always been the plan to finish off with a serve of the pancakes she indicated that this had become almost a theme of many customers, finishing off their meal with something sweet. The semolina pancakes came filled with walnuts, drizzled with rosewater and served with ashtah (a type of cream) and sprinkled with pistachios. The pancakes had a different texture to the normal cafe style, somehow both fluffy but a little more dense than usual. The walnuts and pistachios gave the dish great texture and the rosewater gave it sweetness without it being overwhelming. A bit different but really, really good.
I know it probably sounds like I'm gushing over this place but I thought it was fantastic – if our visit was typical I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn't love it. And I’m not someone who wants to hoard their favourite places, I want everyone else to try them and enjoy them as much as I did (well, provided I can still get a table). Go and try it, just please nobody take the window seat looking out into the courtyard so I will always have somewhere to sit!
Food – 9
Ambience – 8.5
Service – 8.5
Price – 7.5
56 Johnson Street
Collingwood VIC 306
Tel: (03) 9415 8818