South Yarra is looking better than ever. You’ve got super-café Top Paddock turning out some of the best breakfasts in town; new Aussie dive bar the Sweetwater Inn offering tinnies and good times; and now B’Stilla – a mod-Moroccan joint jazzing up the off-Chapel dining district with hard-to-pronounce dishes and a soundtrack of pure funk.
You’ll start with a complimentary thimble of sweet mint tea and dried apricots, but past that you might pair your tagine with anything from tequila cocktails to a longneck of Melbourne Bitter.
The fit-out is as clean a whistle in a washing machine. No detailed rugs and hookahs here. Instead, backlit panels of white slats and starred metal trellises cast patterns across plain yellow walls and acid-blonde wooden furniture. Très sheikh!
You can’t book, so get in early to claim a table in one of the side rooms or out on the enclosed heated patio. We’re usually big fans of sitting bar-side, but proximity to the door (which gets a lot of use) makes the central stretch of wood a breezy place to park.
Briwats are our pick of the many spiced-meat-or-veg-in-pastry starters. Here, thin, crisp pastry shells package a lemony mixture of rainbow chard, buttery leeks and cashew. We love the sticky oxtail and sweet onion filling in the rghaif, but it loses in the ratio war against a thick fried crepe casing.
This is straight-up, rib-sticking street food. You’ll eat a tagine. That’s not even a question. Ours is all soft quince, toasted almonds and a surprise mix of goat from soft gelatinous rib-meat to slightly chewier hunks of shoulder. Ladle the cooking liquor over a bowl of cous cous fancied up with smoked chilli and preserved lemon, and interrupt the party of protein and carbs with a salad of pickled cucumbers and bright red piquillo peppers.
Wine-wise, the short, all-local list has bottles starting at $60. But they’ve also got your back, frugal friends, offering decent house red and white wine on tap at $45 a litre.
B’Stilla offers the kind of informal, fun dining this area has needed forever. Onwards and upwards South Yarra!