Fo0die dined as a guest of Isme and as such, the rating does not give any consideration to customer service.
We were intrigued by this venue which opened in July 2019 and promotes itself as a cafe by day and Mediterranean fusion bar by night. And we were very fortunate to be able to experience the venue both by day and night within a week of each other. The venue’s name has a beautiful and inclusive meaning behind it which ingrains the values of the owners into the venue. The name ‘Isme’ means ‘my name’ in Arabic and has been named to represent that the venue can be anyone’s name and that anyone from any background is welcome to the venue. Food and drinks really do bring people together; we love the venue’s message.
When we travelled to the venue by car on a Saturday for brunch, we parked on Kerr street which had a range of 2P and 4P parking. By tram, we took route 11 along Collins Street from the CBD and a short 3 minutes walk to the venue.
Located at the corner, the venue has outdoor seating out in the open as well as undercover bench-style seating around the sides of the venue with a heater bar on top.
Entering the venue via the doors on Kerr Street, the counter and bar are on the right, the kitchen is straight ahead with the dining area on the left.
In the dining area, there’s a variety of seating is available in the venue; from white marble top bench height seating to large communal tables to a little area in the corner of the venue that has padded style seats.
The space has contemporary decor with exposed ceiling which is warmed up by the warm coloured wooden floorboards. During the day the venue is filled with natural lighting and at night, the venue transforms with soft furnishing and ambient lighting.
Note that toilets are located in the basement down a full flight of stairs.
Food/Drinks – Brunch
Their day menu consists of a breakfast and lunch section and has a good combination of traditional brekky/brunch type dishes with one or two Lebanese style dishes. This was a conscious decision by the owners versus putting a Lebanese spin on every dish which we think allows the diners to try Lebanese food if they wished or stick with the traditional granola, smashed avocado etc.
We love when venue’s proudly display on their menu the coffee that they are using. At Isme, their coffee is roasted by Zest and we could taste the roast in both of our coffees. The mocha was well balanced with a strong coffee flavour (which is to my preference).
The mushroom medley came out on a very large single slice of toast (which must have been the centre of the loaf of bread as we saw others get two pieces when the toast was smaller in size). Creamy fetta combined with a generous portion of well seasoned medley of mushrooms (we counted at least three different types) and roasted juicy cherry tomatoes.
It’s not very often that we come across a Lebanese breakfast so we, of course, had to give it a try. The Lebanese breakfast was served on a board with a bit of everything (which I love!), fresh cucumber and cherry tomatoes was a nice fresh complement to the haloumi, labne, fried egg and sujuk.
Food/Drinks – Dinner
At night, the venue’s menu changes to a shared style menu. Under the section of ‘Mezza’ are small share style dishes, ‘Bigger’ are larger dishes which are also designed to be shared and finally ‘Something a little sweet’ which is self explanatory (you may or may not choose to share these #justsaying). Between the two of us, we had 5 Mezza dishes, 1 Bigger and 1 Dessert and this was enough for us.
Starting off with our 5 Mezza dishes, the Sumbuski had a juicy filling as we bit into the crisp pastry. The arancini was crisp on the outside and well balanced. Why do we say well balanced? Because olive can be very overpowering both in flavour and saltiness but in this arancini, there was just enough olives to know that there are olives present in the arancini without overpowering the entire thing. Eaten with the Isme sauce, this added a creaminess to the arancini.
For our next three Mezza dishes, the pumpkin pockets had a little spicy kick to the filling which was flavoursome and had a nice texture to it thanks to the mushrooms. The mini lamb skewers had a good chargrill flavour to it, wasn’t overly strong in thyme or garlic flavour and was so so tender (perfectly cooked!). And finally, the zaatar chips which was thinly sliced and so crisp; could totally eat this by myself!
Wanting to be known as a Lebanese bar restaurant, we can’t forget the ‘bar’ part. Isme has a small cocktails menu (and they all sound amazing!), sparkling, white, rose and reds by the glass or bottle, beer and spirits (vodka, gin, tequila, rum, bourbon, cognac and whiskey).
Onto our ‘Bigger’ dish, the spicy prawn fatteh which was cooked perfectly and with a squeeze of the lemon, the tanginess went nicely with the laben garlic. The crunchy pita kept the textures interesting.
And to finally finish off, the deconstructed cheesecake which we shared (and wished we didn’t have to). Baklava… need I say more?
Isme is a bit of a hidden gem and had it not been for our Instagram or food blog, we do not think we would have come to know that such a venue existed. It’s definitely one I’ll be keeping as a recommendation for others as well as one that I will suggest for catch-ups.
Dishes that make up this review – Brunch
- Mocha ($4)
- Decaf latte ($4.70)
- Mushroom medley; avocado, fetta, roasted tomato, pepita seeds, balsamic glaze and a poached egg on sourdough ($19.90)
- Lebanese breakfast; fried eggs, sujuk, labne with zaatar, cherry truss tomatoes, cucumber, olives and hot pita ($20.90)
Dishes that make up this review – Dinner
- Sumbuski; homemade pastry stuffed with minced meat, sauteed onion and pine nuts ($10.90)
- Zaatar and fetta arancini; roasted peppers, olives, chives, served with Isme sauce ($12.90)
- Pumpkin pockets; pumpkin, mushroom, spinach and sauteed onions ($12.90)
- Mini lamb skewers; garlic, thyme and Lebanese spiced baby lamb fillet, served with labne dip ($14.90)
- Zaatar chips with chilli oil ($9.90)
- Spicy prawn fatteh; laben garlic, parsley, sumac, roasted nuts and crunchy pita ($26.90)
- Deconstructed cheesecake; baklava white chocolate and crushed pistachio ($16.90)
- Pink passion cocktail; gin, passionfruit liqueur, tonic, lemon juice and cucumber ($20)
- Four Pillars bloody shiraz gin and tonic ($14)