Scorcher reviews: Lé Léé
236 High St, Northcote
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One of the best things about living in such a great food city like Melbourne, one with a rich culinary tapestry, is that it’s fairly easy to go out and experience a cuisine that you’ve never had before.
Before hoofing it over to High Street to get a feed at Lé Léé, a brand spanking new Macedonia restaurant in Northcote, the only tidbits of info I had on Macedonia were Peter Daicos and that the capital is Skopje.
But I walked away feeling like I’d just snagged an impossible goal from the boundary and inspired to visit the landlocked European country.
At this risk of offending any Greeks, by “Macedonian” I am of course referring to what is now known (officially since February) as the Republic of North Macedonia, rather than the region of Greece.
But let’s leave the politics aside and just focus on the food, shall we? Because the things I ate at Lé Léé had me saying SkopYEAH!
Macedonian cuisine takes its cues from Eastern European cooking and shares culinary similarities with other Balkan nations, think meat-heavy dishes, stews and shed loads of rakia.
Come to Lé Léé expecting to be fed well. Five-star dining this is not. More like dining at the home of a new-found friend who’s invited you over because grandma is making a huge spread and there will be heaps to go around.
As much of the menu requires the aid of Google Translate, it’s perhaps easier to outsource the hard decisions and order the banquet.
That way you’ll get the full Macedonian experience and sample dishes you might not have ordered yourself.
The warm up act in a traditional Macedonia meal will often be a meze plate of cured meats, cheeses, olives and dips. Add to that shopka salata (tomato, cucumber, onion and grated feta) and tikvicki (fried zucchini and garlic fritters) and you’ve got the makings of a simple yet super meal.
For the main event, every square inch of our table was taken up by terracotta bowls filled dishes like succulent slow-roasted pork belly, pickled cabbage rolls stuffed with mince, veggies and rice (love these a lot, my mother-in-law’s are incredible), garlic peppers, vardarsko grne (meat and veggie clay pot stew) and tavche gravche, baked beans with peppers and onions, Macedonia’s national dish.
In Macedonia they have a saying: “So dusha da go pravish”, which translates as “do it with soul”.
A lot of heart and soul has gone into the creation of Lé Léé.
Dining in the courtyard of Lé Léé did feel like attending a soiree at a family friend’s house. And I’m looking forward to catching up with my Macedonian mates again soon.