Thursday, 4 September 2008

out of africa

-45 East Esplanade
Manly NSW 2095

Phone (02) 9977 0055
Fax (02) 9977 2606

Manly's East Esplanade is a veritable United Nations of food. Here, you'll find everything from Brazilian and Italian alongside ubiquitous fish'n'chips, ice cream and cafe offerings.

But if you're in the mood to eat on the wild side, Out of Africa fits the bill perfectly. Scary faux zebra upholstered booth seats aside, this venue is home to chef and restaurateur Hassan M'Souli's version of soul food - namely spicily eclectic Moroccan and North African influenced food. Like many chefs, his food references his mother’s cooking influence as well as that of his hometown of Casablanca.

You'll find everything you expect to see on a Moroccan menu: Cous Cous, Tagines galore and lots of meat and seafood. A mixed entrée of spicy marinated lamb brochette, saffron-sweet cigar-shaped chicken filo briouat, fried 'soul' sardines, tender grilled calamari and a barbequed king prawn is a tasty beginning to your food safari. The oysters OOA (Out Of Africa) combine Sydney Rock Oysters with coriander, lime and chilli. Whilst very tasty, they could really be from OOA (Out Of Anywhere).

The Moroccan Meatballs are a signature dish and are tender, bite-sized pieces of beef, served in a spicy tomato-based sauce featuring garlic, Moroccan spices and peas. Not too dissimilar from its Italian counterpart, it lacks the 'signature' kick but is otherwise satisfying.

A great feature of Moroccan food is a blend of sweet flavours, mixed in with the spicier ones giving a contrast to the heat of some of the other offerings. The Sud Afric Lamb Sosaties is a great example, combining perfectly tender chargrilled lamb backstrap, with rice and a sweet apricot Madras sauce. The sauce is served with sour cream and is simultaneously creamy, fruity, sweet and savoury.

Respite from the festival of meat comes in the form of the Fish Turban Tagine – blue-eyed cod served in Chef M'Souli's famous spicy tomato charmoula sauce. Not sure where the Turban comes into it, but the fish is fresh, tender and the dish has a great seafood flavour. It’s all served bubbling hot in a Tagine and our friendly waiter seems to enjoy whipping off the Tagine lid with the flourish of a Spanish Matador.

Make sure you order lot of cous cous to accompany the Tagine - it comes served with dried fruit and slivered almonds on top and is just the ticket for absorbing all those tasty sauces.

No elephant sitings here, but at around $35 per person, its the most affordable trip to North Africa you're likely to find.

Monday - Wednesday 6-10pm
Thursday - Sunday 12pm - 1opm
4 stars.