Moroccan Soup Bar is a Melbourne institution. But, after 24 years, owner Hana Assafiri is closing her perennially popular Fitzroy North restaurant.
“I’m feeling a myriad of emotions,” she tells Broadsheet.
June 30 will be the last service at Moroccan Soup Bar’s St Georges Road home. From then, it’s switching to a takeaway- and events-only model, to be run out of a new space.
“It’s a bold move – and in that sense I’m absolutely shit-scared,” Assafiri admits. “But it also feels like the right thing to do.
“I hope it’ll become a thing, like the chickpea bake became a thing.”
A combination of factors contributed to the decision, including council red tape (particular surrounding the outdoor dining area) and – most importantly – the Covid safety of the restaurant.
“Anyone who thinks the pandemic is over is not paying attention,” says Assafiri. “So, the question was: how do we transform in proportion to the environment we’re in … and how do I keep my staff empowered but safe?”
The answer, for Assafiri, was simple: “I don’t want to put people in closed, congested spaces anymore.”
The next step is recruiting partners to get the new business model up and running. (Keep an eye on Broadsheet for more information about delivery.)
What we do know, though, is that the Covid-safe events will continue Moroccan Soup Bar’s fierce social-justice mission. “Food is the linchpin, but it’s a platform for communities to engage with real issues,” Assafiri says. Expect “dinner and a banquet of ideas” in the form of conversation “salons” – events in a similar vein to the restaurant’s themed dining rooms. They’ll centre on issues like how to be better allies to First Nations people, how to be more environmentally conscious, and how to celebrate women “in a way that goes beyond rhetoric”.
Moroccan Soup Bar first opened in 1998 – and despite the opening and closing of a takeaway offshoot, and a relocation – it’s remained a go-to for locals in search of a hearty, wholesome and wallet-friendly meal.
Moroccan Soup Bar’s last service is on Thursday June 30. Book a table by calling (03) 9486 3500.