Unlike its more culinary-diverse cousin South Melbourne, Albert Park presents a frustrating dichotomy where more often than not, you have to spend a pretty penny to get good food.
Kamel is an exception, where good food and a good atmosphere are available at a reasonable price. A restaurant with an enduring history and a loyal clientele in the area, Kamel is well adept at serving warming Middle-Eastern, North African food to the hungry Albert Park masses.
The restaurant is known for its warm dining atmosphere, with dim lighting, a fireplace and an ever-present buzz of conversation coming from the candlelit tables, which definitely lends itself well to the comprehensive Mezze-style menu.
I decided on the roasted pumpkin and beetroot salad with kale, pistachios and goats cheese; the freekeh, lentil and sweet potato salad with walnuts and tahini, the ras al hanout red wine-braised beef cheeks with cauliflower puree and sweet potato crisps and the Turkish sweet plate consisting of Turkish delight, cashew baklava, Turkish fairy floss, halva ice cream and Turkish delight ice cream.
The pumpkin and beetroot salad was light and satisfying at the same time. It’s a classic combo- but the pistachio and kale give it a nice twist. The freekeh, lentil and potato salad was much spicier than the former, with delightful lashings of the classic turmeric, coriander cumin trifecta that is common in Morrocan food, which was given a fresh flourish with mint and coriander. However, there was no denying the hero dish was the braised beef cheeks.
Rich melt-in-your-mouth beef flavoured with the North African ras al hanout spice mix, creamy cauliflower purée, that toffee crisp of sweet potato and the jus of wine, meat juices, celery and onion that melts together during the slow-cooking process… this is a dish to travel all the way to Albert Park for.
Getting stuck into the sweet plate after this feast was indulgent, sure – but there was no way I could say no to that exotic combo of flavours, textures and temperatures. There is a reason the flaky baklava, the fudgy Turkish delight and the fluffy fairy floss with ice cream, designed especially for the dish by the famous Jock’s, are a staple on the Kamel menu.
Kamel is an Albert Park institution – and no matter what the season or time of day, the warmth that permeates every aspect of the establishment makes it difficult to have a bad experience.
KAMEL CUISINE: Middle Eastern, African, Breakfast/Brunch ADDRESS: 19 Victoria Ave, Albert Park PH: 9387 3397 HOURS: Mon – Thurs 5pm – 10pm / Fri – Sun 8am – 3pm / 5pm – 10pm WEBSITE:www.kamelrestaurant.com FACEBOOK:Kamel