The Footscray Hub arcade mostly seems wonderfully timeless and very African.
But it’s only ever had, to the best of our knowledge, a single food outlet among its various hairdressers, clothes shops and more.
Somali Star Cafe
- Address: Footscray Hub (arcade between Nicholson and Albert streets)
These days that shop goes under the moniker Somali Star and is, I reckon, at least the third incarnation of that food space.
It’s small – there’s two simple booths, so seating is restricted.
But most customers are of the takeaway variety, and come and happily go for the sambusas.
We’ve had these African versions of the samosa from here before – but never like this.
Oh no, these are bigger and better by quite some margin.
And, in the case of our lamb number, absolutely delicious; the flaky pastry generously stuffed with minced meat, onion and herbs.
And at $3.50, they’re a superb, dead-set bargain.
But while our sambusa is profoundly enjoyable, it is a holding pattern – pretty much – for our more substantial plates.
We’re warned there’ll be a wait time of about 15 minutes.
But we don’t mind that as we are very much enjoying the moment.
What we get is unfussy, very enjoyable Somalian food.
Pasta/beef ($12) displays the Italian influence on north African cuisine.
The noodles go just right with a sauce that is a bit like a Somalian version of spag bol.
Both are excellent.
The rice/lamb ($13) comes without adornments.
We’re familiar with Somalian rice being cooked in stock.
This rice is quite different, pan fried (I think) with onion and small meat chunks.
The lamb is something else.
Normally, when eating lamb in neigbourhood and street food places, be they Indian, African or other, we are used to getting lovely meat that is nevertheless sporting its fair share of bone, fat and, or gristle.
We don’t mind that at all, as the quality cooking of the meat invariably outweighs the extraneous bits.
We admire the skill that makes such delicious food out of the cheapest cuts of meat.
In the case of the lamb at Somali Star, we get all the cooking skill and none of the rest – save for the single, visible bone piece.
The meat is very simply cooked; grilled and, as far as I can tell, unseasoned.
But it is so wonderful, tender and yummy that I reckon a heap of much flasher eateries/pubs/cafes would be happy to serve it and charge a whole bunch more in the process.
Kenny Weir is the founder of Consider the Sauce, the definitive guide to eating in Melbourne’s western suburbs – www.considerthesauce.net