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Cuisine Undercover - Byblos - 4 stars

03 May 2011

I love it when you stumble across something new in Melbourne, particularly when it’s right smack bang in the middle of it.

In fact I have to admit I felt a bit stupid, not even knowing this prime bit of waterfront real estate had opened up to the public (and no, Neil Mitchell, I’m not talking about Docklands in general …)

I’m talking about the World Trade Centre Wharf. For almost a year now, a slick looking bar has been operating behind that rather messy and hard-to-navigate entrance into the WTC, Crowne Plaza Hotel and police headquarters, where Spencer St, Flinders St and Wurrundjeri Way seemingly collide. But step behind this urban mess and whoa-oh! Another little piece of Melbourne’s riverfront is now adorned with tables spilling out onto the water’s edge.

The Wharf Hotel has recently been recently joined by Byblos – which cut its teeth in Brisbane and is now offering “a modern taste of Beirut” for those willing to venture up stream.

It looks fabulous – all Lebanese artefacts and dusky gold and pink hues going some way towards compensating for the lack of sunlight its southern facing orientation affords.

Gorgeous looking booths line the river-facing window – which unfortunately we were denied, being only a party of two and, I can only presume, not good-looking enough – because, come on, it was already after 1pm and there was virtually no-one else there.

A glass of sparkling rose from Burgundy put an end to the sulking, as did perusing a menu that I really enjoyed reading. Not only did the food all sound delicious, but the various banquet combinations and the extensive list of cocktails, beers and wines all sounded nothing short of fun.

Despite making us feel ugly, the waiter did go on to be very helpful and talked us through the menu. Faced with almost too much to choose from, we went with the exceptionally good value Platter for Two ($60), comprising a generous serving of hommos (no giggling please), tabouleh, and a selection of pastries and meats.

Despite initially fearing four pastries each might be a little bit much, each had such wonderfully different flavours and textures, they all went down a treat.

The Rekakat – flaky and light, encasing feta, mozzarella and Lebanese spices were a particular stand-out. The dip was earthy and thick, the tabouleh refreshing and light, and the meat – ooooooh, the meat. Juicy. Succulent. Smoky. Divine.

I often fear that meat on skewers will come out tough and sporting a generic barbecue flavour, but the lamb in olive oil and Lebanese spices, and the chicken marinated in garlic, coriander and lemon juice, put my barbies to shame.

I won’t lie – I am not a fan of rose water and as the majority of desserts featured it. I went with the not-so-Lebanese offering of chocolate pudding. It was however, delicious, with a thick and rich sauce bursting forth from the centre that probably eradicated the need for the side serve of chocolate sauce – but who’s complaining? Guess I won’t be thin and glamorous enough for one of those window booths any time soon …

Whatever. Byblos is, technically, just outside of Docklands, but for many locals it will still be closer than the CBD and yes Mr Mitchell, like Docklands, it will probably benefit from being that little bit quieter than other waterfront destinations for some time yet – so make the most of it while you can.

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