Sunday, January 30, 2011

Local Hero - Cafe Sarabella

Cafe Sarabella is a wonderful little cafe providing home-style Indian meals, a small range of sweet treats, tea, coffee and chai in the Victoria Street Mall. It's been there for nearly five years now, having opened not long after we moved to our current place in Coburg.

There are many good-value Indian restaurants in Brunswick and Coburg however, I think this is one of the best. As well as being very accommodating to special dietary requirements (almost all of her dishes are gluten-free), Sara offers an range of Indian curries and other well-known Indian classics such as Biryani, and sometimes you will find her take on Asian dishes such as laksa. Standard curry dishes such as chicken and lamb curry are generally always available and on the revolving menu you will find salmon, goat and rabbit curry. These are all available in take home packs too.

I think between us we've tried most of Sara's dishes now and they've all been delicious. On our last visit there S tried the lamb curry. This was served with dahl, rice flecked with poppy seeds, and vegetables tossed in cumin and mustard seeds (the vegetables change on a daily basis too). The lamb curry with potatoes was rich and tasty, cooked so that the lamb was succulent and tender. A very satisfying meal.

I'm a big fan of single pan rice dishes such as risotto, paella and biryani. So I almost always find myself ordering her lamb biryani, although I will have the goat curry when it's available. What I particularly like about the biryani is the cloves that are flecked throughout it, providing a lovely warmth to each mouthful of food. Mmmm cloves...they're simply not used enough in cooking these days. It's also spiced with cinnamon sticks - double delicious.

As are most of the meals at Cafe Sarabella, the biryani is served with some yoghurt and home-made chutney on the side. Often Sara's regular customers will provide her with fruit and vegetables that then form part of a meal you may be eating. A box of cumquats received just before Christmas became a delicious chutney to be served with meals and sold to customers. I bought a small jar and yes, it is delicious.

Cafe Sarabella offers a small range of gluten free cakes such as cranberry, sticky date and orange almond. All are made using almond meal and so they are wonderfully moist and dense. At Christmas time gluten free fruit Christmas cakes can be ordered. We've ordered these for the past two years now and they are absolutely delicious, full of plump, brandy soaked fruit in an almond meal cake.

The other thing of special note is that Sara blends, roasts and double grinds her own chai tea. This process takes her six to eight weeks and it results in a superior chai. I'm not a regular drinker of chai but will often order one at Cafe Sarabella because the taste is so good.

Cafe Sarabella is a cheery place enjoy a drink and meal. There's a slightly boho look to it with hand-written daily menus taped up on the counter and the mix and match cushions and table clothes. Sara is a friendly and welcoming host who always has a smile and hello for her customers and a sympathetic ear. The intimacy of the cafe often results in customers engaging in a lively chatter around the two indoor tables, and a smile as you pass them a week or two later as you are walking down the street. With only a very small kitchen behind the retail counter, comprising a four burner hob and a small bench top oven and a strong commitment to using quality meat, fish and produce, Sara is turning out some of the most flavoursome and satisfying dishes around Coburg.

Some other reviews to consider:
Words and Flavours

Cafe Sarabella
1 Victoria Street
9354 5239

Cafe Sarabella on Urbanspoon


  1. Being new to cool-burg, I've only been to Cafe Sarabella once. But I had the loveliest experience, due mostly in part to the gorgeous owner, Sara. I look forward to sampling more of her food and hospitality in future,

  2. Cool-burg! I've not heard that before. Yes, Sara is lovely, one of the many reasons we keep going back.

  3. I must credit @essjayeats with the coolburg moniker. But I like it :-)

  4. haven't been there for ages but love the dosa - must go back there if they are open again after the summer break - have also bought gf sticky date cake for gf friends who were very impressed

  5. @Johanna, she's back! Reopened on Tuesday. I enjoyed a piece of her Christmas cake yesterday. Yummo!