The interior is similar to how it was for former tenant Chocolateria San Churro, but it feels less cluttered. This tiny space has become B’Stilla Cantina, an informal inexpensive off-shoot of an established southside restaurant. The theme is Moroccan street food. The outdoor tables are a lot more colourful.

B’Stilla Cantina has only been open a couple of weeks and is just getting started. The service was welcoming and the staff were keen to explain the menu. We ordered 3 dishes to share for lunch. The sardine fritters ($8, below) are fresh and delicious and were my favourite dish.

bstilla2 lunch at B’Stilla Cantina on Brunswick St

We had the fried cauliflower ($7, below) which had lots of flavour and was surprisingly soft. I was expecting more of a crunch (this is not a criticism). If you’re a vegetarian you’re going to struggle to make a meal of the limited menu. It’s meaty. I hope you like cauliflower.

bstilla1 lunch at B’Stilla Cantina on Brunswick St

My lunch companion still worships the memory of the potato salad sandwich that used to be on the menu at Collingwood’s Cibi cafe, so B’Stilla Cantina’s potato sandwich with harissa mayo (Mustafa $8 or Infidel at $9 with bacon as we ordered it) was compulsory. It was considered a satisfying replacement (below).

bstilla3 lunch at B’Stilla Cantina on Brunswick St

We ordered both desserts to share – mehalebeya, an orange blossom flavoured custard with a spoonful of amlou (a dense sweet nut paste) and the sweet b’stilla, a tube of brik pastry with a saffron, cinnamon and ginger sauce with honey and nuts. The custard was not set like a creme caramel and it had the texture more of a thick yogurt. I preferred the sweet b’stilla, which had a richness I found much more satisfying.

bstilla4 lunch at B’Stilla Cantina on Brunswick St

Because of its small size it has limitations. All the inside seating is on high stools at narrow bars. That’s not going to suit everyone and accessibility, particularly to the toilets, is an issue. There’s a step down from the restaurant space into the corridor where the toilets are located, and when we visited that door was propped open by a box that was itself an obvious trip hazard.

bstilla5 lunch at B’Stilla Cantina on Brunswick St

There’s nothing nearby to compare B’Stilla Cantina to. The former United Arab Eatery (in its original Northcote incarnation) may be the closest in terms of style and informality. Bayte (Lebanese inspiration) on Johnston St Collingwood is at a higher level in terms of sophistication. Karavan on Gertrude St briefly tried something different two years ago and it ended before anyone noticed (they then tried an uninspired Americana menu).

In some ways we live in a food Disneyland. If you’re looking for ethnic diversity and authenticity, you may be more likely to find it in the outer suburbs than here. Fitzroy is a testing ground for trends and potential franchises (San Churro, Trampoline). This modest space was the original location for what is now an international empire. Does B’Stilla Cantina aspire to similar success?

Americana is wearing out its welcome but there is much more potential in central and south American food. The Fitzroy / Collingwood area is saturated with Japanese and has new Korean and Vietnamese offerings. As a region Asia may have plenty more to offer in terms of new restaurants, but Africa remains the least explored continent for most Australian diners. I’ve eaten at all the nearby east African restaurants, and am keen for more food with African influence to be available here.

I really like this food and in particular these flavours. I find it much more interesting than the Americana trend. But I don’t know if my tastes are representative. Some of the places that I have thought most innovative and enjoyable that have opened in the past few years in Fitzroy have not survived (I miss Le Cellier in particular, but I also recall Pollen and Juanita’s). I hope B’Stilla Cantina does.

lunch at B’Stilla Cantina on Brunswick St

6 thoughts on “lunch at B’Stilla Cantina on Brunswick St

  • 16 January 2015 at 10:52 am
    Permalink

    Oh, I’m looking forward to trying this place now, after reading your post.
    I like your food review posts, please keep them coming!

    Reply
  • 17 January 2015 at 1:11 pm
    Permalink

    Also keen to try it when back in the country. I do question the decision to change the indoor seating configuration from what CSC had. Once winter arrives and the outside tables become less welcoming they may find that most people prefer to sit across, rather than next to, their dining companions.

    Reply
    • 17 January 2015 at 1:30 pm
      Permalink

      It feels more spacious inside without the heavy wooden tables in there. Not sure about the comparative number of seats, but I doubt it is many fewer. Overall I think the interior space has been improved, though I agree some people like to look at each other while they eat. Parallel bar seating suits couples but not groups.

      Reply
  • 24 September 2015 at 11:07 pm
    Permalink

    Brian, I used to drop in for lunch regularly on the weekend, loved the menu and the food but then last month the menu changed to be more Aussie and I wasn’t impressed. Anyway as of last week it has shut. Although something is happening, with the exterior being painted red? Not sure what’s going on.

    Reply
    • 25 September 2015 at 1:04 am
      Permalink

      Goddammit why are the good places never profitable enough to last? A review through their Facebook page reveals a new ‘bar menu’ was introduced in early August, their posts are all about cocktails and they now seem to be called ‘Little Hop’. RIP B’Stilla Cantina, you were the best thing to open in Fitzroy in the past year. Why do the good die young? According to their website the parent restaurant B’Stilla is closing tomorrow, so perhaps this is part of a bigger situation. Apparently at the main venue they’re going to rebrand and redo the restaurant annually. Sounds like a colossal waste of time and money to me.

      Reply
  • 25 September 2015 at 3:12 am
    Permalink

    That’s a great shame…although the way the place was set up internally was never going to encourage diners.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *