A neon pink sign beckons from the end of a Melbourne city laneway. The building it adorns looks small and unassuming, and as I start to imagine the layout inside, words like intimate and cosy spring to mind.
I couldn’t be more wrong. is sprawling and cavernous, its seemingly boundless interior and minimal decor evoking the wide open spaces of the desert. The owner tells me that the building used to be a wine cellar for the restaurant Movida, among others, and, impressively, they’ve managed to pull off the conversion in only seven weeks.
After being escorted to our table, my plus one and I are treated to Souk’s signature cocktail, named after celebrated Egyptian actor Omar Sharif. A subtle fusion of gin, citrus mastic, orgeat and rose water, notes of marzipan and cotton candy are immediately present. I’m not one for sweet drinks but luckily the sour citrus balance ensures the cocktail tastes refreshing rather than sickly.
Souk describe their menu as a culinary journey into North Africa, Anatolia and the Middle East and we had the opportunity to sample seven diverse dishes. I love all things hummus so couldn’t fault the first dish: chipotle hummus drizzled with burnt butter and paprika, which was nutty, creamy and spicy all at the same time. Also delicious was the prawn falafel served on smoked black tahini with coriander mayonnaise and tomato oil, the octopus with hot muhammara sauce, roasted potato and herb oil, and the chicken kofta with lemongrass, apricot, capsicum and lemon zest served with beet hummus. Overall, the food was exciting and playful, the flavours speaking for themselves.
One thing to consider with Souk is the occasion. At full capacity, Souk seats 130 and while this helps create the lively, bustling atmosphere reminiscent of the Middle Eastern market its name references, it’s not ideal for a quiet catch-up. However if your only criteria is exquisite food in a super-cool setting, then Souk is ready and waiting.
13 Bligh Place
Melbourne VIC 3000
This article originally appeared in The Plus Ones. View here.