Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tiba's Lebanese Restaurant

Two doors up from another great Brunswick institution Mediterranean Wholesalers, sits Tiba’s a bustling Lebanese takeaway and restaurant. The front of house is a popular spot to grab a kebab or falafel on the run. They also sell excellent dips and pastries to take away.

After some months of experiencing the delights of Tiba’s dishes to take out, I thought it was time to actually eat in.

But what to eat? The sit down menu offers a variety of set meals as well as sides from which you can build a satisfying feast. Friends of mine from a “mixed marriage” (a meat eater and a vegetarian), who are regulars like to create their own shared meal from falafels, tabouleh and dips with a carnivorous bit on the side.

For a first time experience we went the easy route, with some set meals.

I opted for the “Falafel Serve” ($10) – 5 freshly cooked falafels, pickled turnips, green salad, tabouli, hummus, yoghurt dip and rice. This turned up on a large plate, with a generous helping of flat bread in a basket. The falafels were satisfying, though I have had better (and worse). The pickled turnip was a perfect addition, for both flavour and texture.

The Significant Eater got a little excited by the meat based offerings and went for the “Mixed Grill” ($16) which came with all of the above minus the falafels but with 5, yes 5, different meats including a cutlet, spicy Lebanese sausage, chicken and lamb. While my meal came on a large plate – this was huge, catering platter size and overflowing with meat and salads. He managed to chew his way through the lot with appreciative grunts, the only criticism being it was a little salty for his palate.

What I like most about Tiba’s is the great value for money, diverse clientele and I even took a liking to the plastic replica mosque that lights up and plays the call to prayer unexpectedly halfway through your meal! I’d expected the staff to down tools and pray but service carried on as usual.

There can be a downside to cheap; in this case it was the smell of chemical air freshener that wafted in waves throughout the meal. There was also a randomness of where the staff seated people. We sat literally on the divide between the ‘nicer’, table-clothed restaurant side and the takeaway kebab bar. Despite there being lots of empty tables in the ‘restaurant’ which had the same menu, there was a weird reluctance to seat people there – even the couple who pointed to a table and asked nicely but still ended up being placed right near the door in the takeaway section. Needless to say the décor is heavy on the type of tack that will never be fashionable (plastic, musical mosque aside).

With these petty grumbles out of the way, there is one more thing you need to know about Tiba’s, being a Halal restaurant means no alcohol. Having advanced knowledge of this meant we had a pleasant pre-dinner drink a block or two away at the Village Green.

Tiba’s ticked a lot of the “very cheat eat” boxes as far as I am concerned: for under $20 there was a wide variety of complete meals (i.e.: protein and a decent serve of vegetables) for vegetarians, vegans and carnivores. Despite it being unlicensed, I could still get a balanced and tasty meal as well as a drink (even if it was somewhere else) nicely within budget.

Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant
504 Sydney Rd,
Brunswick
Phone: (03) 9380 8425

This review is cross-posted at Very Cheap Eats.

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