The Brunswick end of Lygon Street always seems to have one very good Middle Eastern restaurant. Years ago there was Habayib – sorely missed. Then there was Mezza – also missed. The current contender is the Hanging Gardens Restaurant.
As the name implies, the Hanging Gardens Restaurant is not Lebanese but Iraqi. We were looked after by Sam, an Assyrian Christian, who is welcoming and always ready to explain the food.
We first visited a few weeks ago. We happened to be walking past, and thought we’d stop for lunch. We were impressed, and decided to go back and do a review.
For mains we chose grilled kafta and lamb quzi.
The lamb quzi was a slow-cooked flavoursome shank with a slightly spicy tomato sauce, and some lamb juice for those who like a bit of extra lamb flavour (see first pic). This seems to be a variant of the popular Iraqi feast dish of a whole lamb cooked with rice. I’ve occasionally thought of getting a group together and ordering a whole lamb (there was a place in Footscray that sold it), but this variant is a more practical solution.
Both the kafta and the quzi came with rice, which is worth a mention. It was long-grain (basmati?), fluffy, and infused with flavour. With the lamb quzi, it was mixed with sultanas and nuts. Sam explained the cooking method: rinse thoroughly to remove starch (so the grains don’t stick together), saute in oil, then cook in stock. It takes a bit of work, but the result is outstanding. Indian people have described to me a similar approach for cooking rice: rinse thoroughly, then saute before cooking.
On our first visit, we’d also tried the kebbe and the lamb kebab (lahm meshwe). Both were excellent.
Which brings me to another point. To really appreciate the menu, it’s probably best to visit in a larger group. The servings are generous, so you can’t just order a whole lot of things for two people (we were struggling to finish our two mains). There are plenty of things we’d like to try, so we’ll no doubt go back for a few more visits.
OverallThe Hanging Gardens has a sensible wine list (Australian and European), and also allows BYO.
The restaurant itself is spotless, well lit and interestingly decorated (Mrs Leghorn says “elegantly decorated”). There’s indoor and outdoor seating. There’s an open kitchen, also spotless. Overall, the fitout is a step or two above the nearby restaurants. The restrooms are possibly the best in Brunswick.
Mains are priced around $20. That’s excellent value, when you consider the quality of the food, and the fact that you’ll pay that amount for a mediocre hamburger in most pubs within a 20 minute walk.
Find it atHanging Gardens Restaurant
43-49 Lygon Street
Brunswick East VIC 3057
Phone: (03) 9388 1149