In Nagaland, North of India, when someone in the community gains a position of wealth, they can choose to hold a celebration festival. During the festival, the whole community, including the poor and disadvantaged, is invited to join in and share the fruits of the person's wealth. The festival is called Feast of Merit and its the philosophy of the restaurant and cafe of the same name.
Located in Richmond, Feast of Merit is an initiative of YGAP (Y-Generation Against Poverty), a charity that supports leadership and entrepreneurship in Australia, India, Cambodia and Africa. Feast of Merit was borne out of the charity's initiative find permanent funding. In fact, 100% of the cafe and restaurant's profit directly supports entrepreneurs in those regions stated above who are significantly improving the lives of people living in poverty. In support, some of the staff members donate their time volunteering, whilst suppliers such as St Ali, Hopkins River Beef and St David's Dairy donates products.
That was the spiel I read from Feast of Merit's menu while waiting for my girl friends to arrive on Sunday evening. With recent news of non-free-range eggs being labelled as free-range in major supermarkets, I was relieved to know that feast of merit's menu philosophy is food to farm: raw vegetables and grains, with a focus on sustainably sourced meat.
The Middle-Eastern influenced menu is creatively presented with heaps of beautiful flavours that is truly inspiring. There were many highlights from the menu, but I cannot commend the Fried Cauliflower enough.
How can something so simple taste so delicious?! With herbs and spices of course. The Fried Cauliflower with blackened onions, hung yoghurt, sour cherries, za'tar and dill delivered a punch of herbs and spices immediately, whilst the delicate sweetness from the cauliflower bursts through. It reminded me of the creative ways to prepare a humble vegetable, such as the cauliflower.
Another star of the evening was the Cherry tree slow-cooked lamb joint with harissa. It was food-gasm for us as we cut into the lamb joint: Skin crackling... meat falling off the bone. We were in cloud nine. It was the perfect dish to welcome the colder and shorter days.
We also ordered the BBQ zucchini, served with squash, chermoula, cracked wheat, toasted pine nut and preserved lemon. The dish perfectly balanced out the from the richness of the lamb joint.
The cafe and restaurant also serves up a range of small plates, which are great if you're just after snack to go with your coffee or wine. We tried the falafel, snapper croquettes and the BBQ eggplant dip with grilled flat bread.
Feast of Merit's philosophy of sourcing local produce extends all the way to its boost list, which feature local, biodynamic wines and smaller batch beers. Whilst we were too full to explore the rooftop bar, you can still get the same range of cocktails from the restaurant and cafe area, which brings me to another point: service.
From the moment we walked in, we were greeted by friendly staff who actually went over the top for us. Our waitress was so lovely and didn't mind answering our questions at all. While the maitre d was kind enough to get the bar lady to make a cocktail for me, fashioned out of one of their cocktails. I felt like a painful customer, but they made me feel comfortable. The atmosphere was just so welcoming.
Good friends, good food and good vibes: Feast of Merit is a good place to be.
Feast of Merit:
117 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne, VIC
7:30pm - 3pm (Mon), 7:30am - 11:30pm (Tues - Fri), 8:00am - 11:30pm (Sat - Sun)