It's not often that I get overly excited about discovering a new place. Well, after having dinner at Boucla tonight, I have to tell you about it! What a little gem indeed.
This is a very funky little restaurant at the top end of Rokeby Road (between Nicholson & Hamersley Streets), far removed from the busy end. The cuisine seems to be dominated by a mix of Turkish, Greek & Middle Eastern, with dolmades, turkish bread with tsatsiki, tagine cuisine and baklava on offer. There's even a Sicilian apple cake. This is a very chilled out venue, with lots of character; the lights dimmed way down, candles on the solid wooden tables, and an impressive array of fresh flowers on display. Our table has a huge vase full of roses in bloom. There's even a shisha sitting on the antique sideboard.
The venue was picked by my friend Claire, who's moving back to Melbourne after a stint at an infrastructure group which is restructuring to address the indigestion caused by too much cheap and easy debt in the years leading up to the GFC. Joining us was her man Mike, the barrister who's come over to join her on their drive back to Melbourne "across the Nullabor" (umm guys ... if you're going along the Southern coastline via Esperance and South Australia, you're kinda going to miss the Nullabor, I think ,,,), and Suze, whom the offshore petroleum mining companies love to hear from.
Well, there's no risk of indigestion at Boucla, I'm glad to say!
We opt for the tapas/grazing approach, and get a whole bunch of dishes to pick at, ranging from the beef tagine, served on a bed of rice, to chickpea fritters, and even sardines with toast and cherry tomatoes. For dessert, we get the waiter to pull together a range of sweet delicacies, which included the aforementioned Sicilian apple cake, and also a monster homemade baklava, a custardy cake, a chocolatey cake with crunchy crust and two kinds of turkish delight. I don't normally eat dessert, but this was way too good to pass up.
All the while, in between enjoying the great conversation and camaderie, we get to enjoy the highly electic but compelling music - a banghra version of la vie en rose, and then Bob Dylan. But then Buena Vista Social Club's iconic and haunting Chan Chan comes on, and they change the song?!! Sacre bleu!
And not to forget the people watching. I have never seen such a congregation of weird and wonderful examples of the hipster crowd in the one place, other than a Melburnian back alley bar. Sitting outside with his two friends is this guy with hair carefully tousled to achieve the studied wild windblown look, wearing a baggy white thick-knit sweater. In the other corner sit a couple of heavily muscled guys sharing the one girl, each of them trying to sit casually while surreptitiously positioning their arms to display their guns. There's a guy paying the bill at the front counter, wearing what I can only describe as a faux fabric fitted jacket designed to look like shiny PVC material.
The service is friendly and excellent, and we are never waiting or trying to get someone's attention, and the waitstaff are relaxed and look like they're having fun.
The damage? $35 a person, and we all left leaving full. Oh, did I forget to mention that this place is also BYO? Now you know why I'm excited!
Tip #1: Boucla doesn't take bookings, so you'll want to get there early to make sure you get a table, unless you're happy to loiter around outside with the local hipsters while you wait for a table to become available.
Tip #2: Apparently, Boucla only opens for dinner on Thursday nights. But you can still enjoy its great coffees, breakfast menu, and cake selection, during the day.