Cindy's started doing a bit of work out at Monash which, if nothing else, gives us an excuse to meet up in Richmond after work for dinner. We'd heard good things from friends about the food at Feast of Merit, a social enterprise that raises money for YGAP and serves up Middle-Eastern inspired goodies all day long. It's a lovely space - lots of light streaming in through the big windows and a nice buzzy atmosphere without being deafeningly loud.
The menu is pretty standard mid-range Melbourne: small, medium and large share plates with lots of veggie options and then nothing but meat under 'protein'. The staff gave us a good idea of sizing and we ordered a good mix from the small and medium sections, starting with chickpea chips with tomato jam ($9), braised radishes with pomegranate molasses and leaves ($9), caramelised onion hummus ($8) and za'atar grilled flatbread ($5).
They were a beautifully presented selection of dishes that took up almost our whole table. The chickpea chips were probably my favourite - smooth on the inside with a nice crust, while the bread/hummus combo was inevitably a success. I wasn't really into the radishes - I think the texture of braised radish just isn't really for me though, because Cindy happily plowed through them.
We ordered two bigger dishes to follow up - fried cauliflower with crispy onions, hung yoghurt, sour cherries and chervil ($18) and a cucumber, lentil, baharat salad, with buttermilk and almonds ($18). Cauliflower really is an unsung hero of the vegetable world, especially when it's roasted or fried to within an inch of its life (see also Tahina), and this dish was my favourite of the night - the yoghurt and cherries adding sweet and sour notes to the beautifully earthy cauliflower. The cucumber dish was a nice, light accompaniment, with lots of fresh cucumbers given a bit of heft by the lentils.
Cindy was eyeing off the impressive-sound desserts (peanut butter and raspberry sponge with basil!), but we'd gone too hard on the savouries and had to call it quits. Another time.
Feast of Merit is well worth a visit - the food is thoughtful and well executed and there's a good range of vego dishes to choose from (vegans might struggle however - all the non-meaty larger dishes seem to include dairy or eggs by default). We had friendly and efficient service and really enjoyed the space, all with the added bonus that your money is going towards a progressive cause (although I'm a bit sceptical of these kind of ventures after the Shebeen debacle and YGAP's entrepreneur-focussed approach to development isn't really my favourite - still: it's got to be better than an entirely for-profit business).
Having said all that, we probably won't hurry back - Feast of Merit is doing the kind of food we can get get closer to home at Rumi, Teta Mona, Morrocan Delicacy and Mankoushe. It's a genre of eating that Melbourne is doing very, very well. If anyone has any other tips for places around Swan Street that we should check out, we'd love to hear them.
Feast of Merit gets pretty universal praise from food bloggers both for dinner: Trading Plates, Lips Temptations, foodie about town, Sammy Says, Little Caps, The Baroness of Melbourne, A Chronicle of Gastronomy, Dammit Janet I Love Food, The Spice Adventuress, Petit Miamx, Food Rehab, Spoonful of Sarah and Second Helping and breakfast: The Very, Very Hungry Caterpillar, lifestyle by lily, Peach Water, I'm So Hungree, Emoji Food Review and The Brick Kitchen, although In Love With Brunch, Stuck in Transit and The New Fave had some complaints about the service.
Feast of Merit
117 Swan St, Richmond
Accessibility: There's a a flat entryway into a spacious interior. There's full table service and accessible toilets.