PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Cafe Zum Zum sits comfortably in an old Rathdowne Street stretch of shops. It's a great Victorian (the century, not the state) run of places, with all kinds of boutique stores selling books, home-wares, clothing and jewellery, and dotted with delightful eating places. It's what I like to call "inner-city cosy" without a hint of grunge, but it's coveted by the locals. Zum Zum is small, but extended by the pavement seating under the wide verandah. It's casual, with tiled floors and bare tables, which means it's quite noisy when it's full, as it generally is in the evenings. The restaurant is simply decorated; on the walls there are some great old black and white photographs of Beirut and a couple of panels of painted tiles.
Like much Lebanese food, this cuisine is best shared, although there's no reason you can't order individual dishes. All the old favourites are on the menu, including tabouleh and hummus, and a particularly nice range of stuffed leaves – cabbage, vine or silverbeet. Order a range of dishes and then follow up with something grilled, such as the lamb kebabs or the lemony chicken served with almond rice. Finish with baklava or mahalabia – a custard pudding topped with Persian fairy floss. Zum Zum also serves some of the best value lunches in Melbourne with its limited menu of dishes for around $10 (give or take a dollar or two). A plate of felafel and some lovely, fat silverbeet rolls filled with rice will set you up nicely for the afternoon. Because Zum Zum is small and popular, bookings are almost essential, but if you can't get a table, try takeaway instead.