13 Aug Camus – The story of France and Algeria
Albert Camus once said ‘ Maybe it’s not about the happy ending. Maybe it’s about the story’. At Camus in Northcote, immerse yourself in a culinary journey. The story is French Algerian – and the happy ending is a Turkish delight soufflé. Chef Pierre Khodja was born in Algeria and grew up in Marseille, France. Having discovered a penchant for all things food, the journey into the kitchen, led to various stints at Michelin starred restaurants. The technique is evident at Camus, taking heavy North African flavours, refining the presentation and balancing with classical French technique. Admittedly, Algerian cuisine is unbeknownst to most Melbournians and it’s a story you’ll love to hear.
Starting with a bang
Enter the moody, dimly lit restaurant and you’ll be greeted by an open kitchen. A bread roll is baked with caraway seeds. The earthy anise flavours, balanced by a dip in mozzarella oil and a mixture of cumin seeds and dukkah. Normally, I’m crying for butter but this fragrant starter, will very well do.
The starters warrant your attention, calamari bulging with stuffed prawns, topped with a triangle of mushroom borek and a drizzle of parsley foam. Another must order is the Burrata cheese, beautiful and creamy, softly spiced with Za’atar, on a bed of pumpkin, cubed tomatoes and fried coriander. The resulting combination is light and fragrant. There’s nothing worse than an overly wet Burrata, and this one was gorgeous.
Caraway seed bread
Calamari stuffed with prawns, cannellini beans
Burrata cheese, pumpkin, za’atar, fried coriander
The Main deal
Goat is a common livestock on the dry lands of Africa. At Camus, the goat is slow cooked in a tagine. The flavour is more intense than lamb and more akin to mutton. The sweetness of caramelised onions and apricots is needed to tone down the overly meaty profile. Bastilla is a Moroccan staple, with flakey pastry, enveloping a shredded duck and almond filling. Another heavy dish, that is more suitable for sharing.
Duck bastilla, almonds, fruit chutney
Slow cooked goat, caramelised onions, apricot
Local roast carrots, caraway, honey
The happy ending
Now, for the happy ending. You simply cannot visit Camus without ordering the signature. The classic french technique is most evident in none other than a soufflé. Transforming egg whites into a fluffy cloud is no easy feat. Although, ours had slightly deflated, we were on clouds of roses. The pistachio baklava is irrelevant, when there’s a quenelle of halva ice cream. Halva seems to be the African version of Asian black sesame and just like it’s Asian cousin, it’s exemplary in desserts. Match it with an Algerian mint tea.
Turkish delight soufflé, pistachio baklava, halva ice cream
Algerian mint tea
I can’t remember the last time I tried something that was truly new. Camus is familiar in the French sense, but new with a controlled addition of fragrant Middle Eastern and African spices. As with all good stories, it comes to an end, but I’ll surely be back to reunite with the starters and Turkish delight souffle.
Must order: Stuffed calamari, Burrata, Turkish Delight soufflé
Rating: 4.2 cookies out of 5
Hungrycookie dined courtesy of Camus. All opinions are strictly my own.
61 High St