For much of the trip to Morocco I took in college, our group dined at the house of our gracious host. Mehdi’s family lavished us with expansive spreads of lamb and couscous and tagine-stewed vegetables that our team of thirteen could not begin to finish.
“The best Moroccan food is cooked at home,” Mehdi said, and I do not doubt it, as I do not doubt it applies to every cuisine on Earth. The flavor of home shapes our understanding of food in surprising ways, such that we prefer a certain shape and size of carrots and potatoes because that’s how the vegetables were always diced, and just a touch of coriander or cumin can transport us to childhood days spent roaming the kitchen.
But I think what also appeals to most people about home-cooked meals is the promise of gathering around the table. Not the overly prim meals of “Could you pass the bread, please?”, but the rambunctious Thanksgivings, hands reaching over hands, punctuated by the squeal of some aunt who has had too much wine to drink.
Moroccan Soup Bar is not a home, but the frequenters popping in and out with their Tupperware containers make it feel like one. Everyone clustered in groups of friends, dishes overflowing the table—carted out not in any particular order, but when they are ready—the informality of it all.
When we eat, Joanna, Simon, Tim, and me, there is little conversation or politesse, just extended silence and contented groans as we shovel food in our mouths. It is the best kind of comfort food: things that taste great individually but better together, flavors layered over, under, between one another like a culinary fugue. And we keep reaching for more, hands colliding into hands, like some at some weekend potluck at home.
Its name is somewhat misleading, as Moroccan Soup Bar does not serve soup and draws inspiration from a variety of Middle Eastern and North African cuisines, but the misnomer has not deterred the loyal hordes that frequent the restaurant for its vegetarian comfort food. No menu is available—your choices are either a banquet of rotating dishes or a slightly pricier one with more options—but rest assured that the assortment of stews and dips that come out of the kitchen, including the famed chickpea bake, will be hearty and delicious. Portions are generous; it’s common to see customers packaging leftovers in Tupperware to take home for the next day. A wait time of half an hour is not an unusual, so take the time to admire the gewgaws on the wall and the company of friends.
183 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North
03 9482 4240
Around 23 AUD per person