History and literary buffs will perhaps know of famous French Algerian philosopher and writer Albert Camus. I must confess I do not fall within this category, and instead associate the name Camus with French Algerian eatery Camus Restaurant in Northcote. Which is also growing in fame, winning over scores of diners since opening some six months ago.
The man behind Camus is owner, Head Chef and French Algerian Pierre Khodja, who is nothing short of a culinary whizz. His training and previous Michelin-starred experience is evident in the impeccable execution of his dishes that juggle the finesse of finer European dining with the exotic spices and flavours of North Africa.
To start the meal, we were served some cumin seed bread rolls served with Mount Zero olive oil and dukkah. Baked in the morning, the bread rolls tasted superbly fresh. The dukkah imparted great flavour that further heightened the bread experience but it was the pillowy softness of the bread that made it a real stand out.
Coffin Bay oysters came in two forms; au naturel or topped with chermoula. The chermoula was equal parts tangy, sweet, spicy and herbaceous. 100% delicious.
We just had to order Camus' burrata cheese with pumpkin, za'atar and fried coriander after hearing so many good things about the dish. Piercing the skin resulted in an explosion that created a pool of cheesy goodness. Most of us will have tried burrata before but no prior experience comes remotely close to the flavour profile captured in Camus' version. There was a sweet presence in the pumpkin puree and raisins that made quite a pronounced statement but worked beautifully with the savory flavours of the olive oil and burrata. Be sure to mop up all that goodness with some bread... if the rolls haven't already been demolished.
The baked whole snapper was very well cooked; its flesh silky underneath a crispy fried skin. The chermoula rub added a mild but playful spiciness that flavoured each bite, alongside the fresh and vibrant flavours from the capsicum, tomato and red onion. It was a tasty dish but didn't quite generate the same amount of buzz and excitement as the preceding bread and entrees.
Desserts took our dining experience to the same tasty heights as the entrees. The Turkish delight souffle was an airy light cloud of rosewater. Combined with the perfume wafting from the souffle, the rose water presence was further heightened by imbedded pieces of gooey Turkish delight. Rivalling the souffle for the spotlight were the fragrant and creamy halva ice cream and the delectable crunch on the pistachio baklava.
Dessert #2, the vanilla pannacotta, took our taste buds into familiar flavour territory, albeit bold and foreign for a dessert. Vanilla pannacotta... and cherry tomatoes... and basil. Boom! The latter of which was a complete surprise seeing as it wasn't even mentioned on the menu. But the adventurous and ambitious combination was nailed to a T. The bottom layer of pannacotta was flavoured with an aromatic basil presence before transitioning into a fragrant and perfectly balanced vanilla layer. The lemon verbena ice cream was incredibly refreshing and tied together the pannacotta with the natural sweetness of the cherry tomatoes.
Unlike any other cuisine type I have encountered before in Melbourne and with Head Chef Pierre Khodja's magical culinary touch, our visit to Camus Restaurant stands out as one of the best and memorable dining experiences I've had in quite some time. Understandably so, bookings are a must. So what are you waiting for?
61 High St,
Northcote, Victoria, 3070.
(03) 8899 6673
Disclosure: I dined as a guest of Camus Restaurant. All opinions expressed in this post are based entirely on my experience and observations made during the time of my visit.