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Kate reviews: Oasis Fairfield — ‘It’ll become an institution’

92-96 Station St Fairfield 
oasisonline.com.au

The original Oasis in Murumbeena is an institution, and I don’t use the term loosely. Punters from the south east and beyond know and love the Middle Eastern grocers, cooking school and café for its immense range, its tasty food and its gregarious owner.

I did a cooking class with Marwa Makool around five years ago, and she was a bundle of energy and a wealth of knowledge when it came to Middle Eastern cuisine. Wandering the store downstairs for the ingredients we’d used was like being a kid in a candy store for this voracious eater and some-time adventurous cook. But Murumbeena ain’t exactly a hop, skip and a jump for the majority of Melbourne, so for those in the inner north or even inner east, the new Oasis Fairfield is a much more realistic option.

With 10,000 customers heading through the doors each week at Murrumbeena, it’ll be interesting to see how the folk in Fairfield take to their new local.

Like the original, Oasis Fairfield is a gourmet foodstore, bakery, café and cooking school; and like the original, its café is brimming with vibrant, tasty, and cheap breakfast and lunch options.  It’s not a restaurant, so don’t expect one. It’s probably closer to a cafeteria, so find your table first, peruse the extensive menu, then send someone up to the counter to make your order (with someone staying put at your table – they are at a premium come lunchtime!).

And what to order? Well, Rexy and I did our worst, almost ordering more than we could possibly eat (but then I remembered this was Mikkayla Mossop, and there is literally no such thing as more than she can eat) and it still only set us back $56.90. Between us. With a lemon and mint slushie.

And the spread? Well, we’ll start with the standout — haloumi chips. Hot, gooey, chewy, chunks of that Cypriot cheese. They’ve been cut into fingers, fried and tossed in Oasis Zaatar (you can buy some onsite), fresh mint,  then topped with garlic yogurt and pomegranate molasses. Glorious. Seriously good.

Alongside those, eggplant chips. Crunchy eggplant batons double-crumbed in smoked paprika, zaatar and Moroccan Spices (yes, you can buy these in-store too!) and Panko crumbs, topped with a garlic yoghurt dressing and a sprinkle of sea salt and Moroccan spices. Crispy but soft in the middle, they couldn’t quite compete with the cheesy chips, but they were a moreish snack.

Also from the share menu, a small bowl of sweet, sticky roast chicken wings. Marinated overnight in pomegranate molasses, Maras chilli, mixed spices and Zaatar, they’re slow-roasted until tender and served with pickled turnips and extra lemon. Finger-lickin’ finger food.

And finally from the snack-y share dishes, a pair of lamb sambusaks – parcels of spiced lamb mince cooked with nuts, lemon and pomegranate, wrapped in a flaky pastry and fried till they’re golden. They’re served with charred capsicum salsa containing Oasis Archie mix #12 (yep – shop away), fresh chopped parsley, with a little tzatziki on the side to balance out that sweetness. Forget your empanadas, samosas and boreks … here’s my new favourite meat pie alternative!

Somehow we still managed to share a shwarma plate. These are your standard lunch plates but very much still shareable, we got a mix of chicken and lamb shwarma, a swish of rich, house-made hummus, soft pita, and chose a cauliflower salad and tabbouleh from the salad bar. Clearly the house speciality, these guys go through 450-500 bunches of parsley a week for the tabbouleh, blending it to their traditional recipe with soaked burghal wheat, dried mint, mixed spices, salt, lemon juice and olive oil and of course fresh chopped tomatoes. Tabbouleh can be hit and miss, usually because it’s dry, this is a gorgeous, tangy, light salad.

If you’re after sweets, wander over to the retail store and grab yourself some baklava, check out the spices, the legumes, the take home meals on offer – and make sure you read the labels on each, whoever is paid to do their copywriting is well and truly earning their keep – the summaries are nothing if not entertaining.

With a huge, fresh, vibrant, affordable, house-made menu on offer – it’s pretty obviously why Oasis Murumbeena has such a loyal following, and it’s the same reason I think the Fairfield outpost will become an institution before long.

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