Hugh Foster is often credited with having introduced Sydneysiders to Morrocan and Middle Eastern food in the 1990s with his trendy Darlinghurst restaurant, the Fez. The Fez is now closed, but he continues the theme with Café Mint in Surry Hills which has been open since the early noughties and still draws a large crowd, a testament to his ability to keep up with the times.
Café Mint’s takes the successful Sydney café model – communal tables, sleek furnishings and interior, good coffee, all day breakfasts which merge into lunch and dinner – but adds a twist, North African cuisine. Alongside the usual breakfast offerings of sourdough toast, bircher muesli, and scrambled eggs, you have breakfast cous cous with yoghurt, merguez sausage with chakchouka, and baked eggs with beans and sucuk.
My Dad did a stint working at Café Mint after he closed his own restaurant. It was probably around this time that Middle Eastern mezze became a regular part of our weeknight dinner menu. One of my favourite of these recipes is Hugh’s spicy lamb mince with pine nuts, which has made appearances on Cafe Mint’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menu over the years.