A new off-grid, zero-carbon kitchen will dish up Lebanese street food when it launches in Melbourne’s Federation Square this spring.
Son-in-law and mother-in-law Ben Armstrong and Therese Helou are behind the concept, with Armstrong bringing the drive to revolutionise fast food with sustainable solutions and Helou the southern-Lebanese recipes.
A 100 percent renewable-run venue, atiyah, will dish up traditional recipes based on manakish, a streetfood with flatbread base that’s typically topped with za’atar and other ingredients commonly found in Lebanese cuisine. It’ll be one of the first kitchens in Australia to grill their manakish on a saj — the dome-shaped griddles used throughout Lebanon that ensures a crisp outside and doughy centre.
Manakish can be topped with a choice of produce including za’atar, olives, tomato, cucumber, mint, locally made akawi cheese, goat’s labneh, spiced lamb or carbon-neutral beef from Five Founders. The only product not sourced locally is the za’atar, which is a exclusive bespoke mix created by Helou in collaboration with producers in Southern Lebanon.
“I was born and raised in a beautiful small town in southern Lebanon called Jdeidet Marjeyoun,” says Helou. “The environment of my childhood was in total harmony with nature and goodness. The seasonal organic produce, the meat, vegetables, flour and pulses were renowned throughout the country.”
A selection of traditional dips (the classic hummus and babaganoush, plus a goats labneh) are also on the menu alongside traditional Lebanese specials that will rotate seasonally. “We want our customers to leave our venue with something more than just food. When customers eat at atiyah they are contributing to a sustainable future.”
Drinks on tap include Two Boys Brew Kombucha, and house-made leaf teas will also be available.
atiyah’s kitchen will be housed in a mobile building that can be moved and operated anywhere rain falls thanks to four extendable hydraulic legs and a set of eight wheels. The venue is almost entirely self-sufficient thanks to rain-water collection, solar-panels and a biodiesel generator. “The concept was derived from Lebanon’s electric and water crisis people are experiencing every day,” says Armstrong. “Living off grid and being self-sufficient in Lebanon is the ideal strategy.”
Minimal waste is the aim, but any produced will be composted at local community gardens, and, while atiyah will encourage diners to bring their own drink bottles and containers all takeaway packaging will be biodegradable.
The greenhouse gas emissions of the meals and drinks across their life have been assessed and quantified through an industry best practice life-cycle assessment. For comparison, “business as usual” has also been calculated so diners can see the emissions savings from every meal and drink consumed.
The minimalist and functionality-forward design features three sashless windows, allowing the Federation Square community to see, smell and hear atiyah’s traditional saj cooking. “We want to give our customers the full sensory experience while creating a community of amazing people with passion for saving the planet through our delicious streetfood,” says Armstrong. “Federation Square is an iconic destination in Melbourne. They are committed to environmental and sustainable strategies.”