Meeka

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From the moment you enter this twisty-turny world where “tagines and pashmak meet Australia head on” you experience one delight after another. Far from looking like an Arabian nights tent, Meeka is sophisticated and modern with hints of Moroccan souk dotted amongst the white tablecloths and sparkling glassware.

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Our group of six wisely decided to follow the advice of Faye, the joint owner of Meeka with her daughter (head chef Leah Clarke), and order the Petite Banquet at $55 a head. There’s some flexibility shown here too, as instead of following the banquet menu precisely, Faye suggested we could drop a few tagines and substitute them with two dessert platters. It takes a wise woman to know that a group of six women diners will definitely want to squeeze in some sweet treats after their main meal.

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Our entrees were served soon after we’d decided on our dishes, and the food just didn’t stop coming after that. All up there were four entrees served and by the time we’d worked our way through them we were relieved that we hadn’t ordered the banquet’s usual five tagines.

A platter of pickles, mixed breads, dukkah, olives, sausage and spreads was served first.

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Hazelnut pumpkin fava bean falafel with whipped feta and beetroot jam was Meeka’s spin on the traditional version, and its elements of sweetness and nuttiness were quite different from the usual chick pea style.

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My favourite entree was the duck pastries. Pulled duck encased in pastry was accompanied by feta and chilli jam. Wow. I could have eaten the plate of these myself.

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Our final entree was Kataifi pastry rolls encasing fresh dates stuffed with goats feta and walnuts. Sweet, crunchy and salty all at the same time. I loved the Moroccan-meets-Australian theme present in Meeka’s food. Whilst the traditional middle eastern flavours were present, the imagination and creativity of the dishes was amplified by the fusion elements. Biting into these tasty morsels invariably produced exclamations around the table of “oh wow, I wasn’t expecting that!” Different but damned good.

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After a civilised wait time, the tajines arrived and were presented with justified aplomb. Lids were removed from the colourful tajine pots, and aromas wafted across the table. Our colourful individual dining plates were all different and became the topic of excited conversation. According to our wonderful wait staff, there is often serious competition among diners to score the most beautiful plates. Plate envy taken literally. They even swapped a plate for one of our gals who decided that only a purple plate would do.

Chermoula fish koftas with prawns and baby squid were cooked in a Galliano tomato broth with fennel and potato. More soupy than stew-like, this tajine was a light dish that was slightly reminiscent of an Italian hot pot. With coriander and preserved lime added for good measure, it was another unusual but satisfying dish of beautiful flavours.

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Our second tajine was chicken with orange, green olives and zucchini cooked with baharat; a sweet, mild mix of spices comprising paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon, cumin and coriander. This was a delicate, mild dish of succulent chicken, topped with cacik; strained yoghurt mixed with herbs and seasoning.

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Dorper lamb was our lucky last tajine, and this was the crowd favourite. As regular readers will know by now I seldom eat red meat so can’t proffer an opinion about this dish, but if appearances were indicative this dish would win prizes. The lamb had been cooked slowly in a red pepper sauce with candied harissa almonds, prunes, chickpeas, ras el hanout and baby onions and carrots. The result was a lush, thick, sweet sauce with tender meat pieces. The girls loved it.

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In addition to the tajines, a few side dishes came with our banquet. Grilled eggplant with bocconcini, hazelnuts, herbs and a honey glaze was a refreshingly light sidekick to the richness of the tajines.

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Cauliflower is always a crowd pleaser and seems to pop up on menus all over town these days in various incarnations. Meeka’s version with spiced roasted almonds and coriander salt, was like everything else delicious, and a perfect light side dish. We also had shared bowls of Israeli couscous to mop up our tajine juices, so as you can tell the six of us were well on the way to being sated. But we could of course manage a sweet treat or two.

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Our dessert platters featured fluffy doughnuts stuffed with citrus curd, wild strawberry sorbet, spiced pumpkin caramel milk pie, baklava ice cream and brown sugar pavlova with roasted strawberries. This was an array of exotic and unusual sweet treats that we all enjoyed but sadly could not quite finish. I loved the brown sugar pav, but the strawberry sorbet and the pumpkin pie were also commendable. It was refreshing to find desserts not based around the common theme of brûlées, churros and tiramisu that every restaurant seems to serve versions of these days. There was originality and inventiveness at play, but that seems to summarise everything Meeka does.

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Small wonder that this Subiaco restaurant has won state and national awards for their brilliant food, and for their extensive and respected wine selection. The Meeka crew describes their food as “modern Australian with a middle eastern twist”, so if you come with an open mind, an empty stomach and a love of good food, you will as we did, have a superlative dining experience.

http://www.meekarestaurant.com.au

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