Who is Soumi Tannous? I’m the owner of Beirut Bunker Bar in Garema Place.
Best recent dining experience: Trecento in Manuka, with my wife and children. The food was so good the kids didn’t move from the table, which is very rare for us! Everything from the gigantic fluffy pillows of gnocchi to the colourful octopus and garlic wood-fired prawns was cooked to perfection. We also had our Christmas staff party at Rizla in Lonsdale Street, Braddon, and opted for the set menu. Everything was delicious, but that sauce from the pappardelle, mmm, I could drink it from a cup.
Most embarrassing pantry item: Turmeric tea. I don’t know where it came from or why we have it.
Must-buy ingredient: Salt. Because, salt.
Next big thing: Lebanese, habibi! Healthy, fresh and fast, with many of our most-loved dishes that have been perfected over thousands of years already vegan friendly – think falafel, fattoush, tabouli, hummus, moujadara.
Favourite place for breakfast in the ACT: Al Manoosh Lebanese bakery in Mawson. If it’s your first time eating Man’oushe (a traditional Lebanese breakfast pizza), I’d recommend starting with a half za’atar, half cheese. Ricardo’s café in Jamison Plaza, Macquarie, is a family favourite too.
My Canberra food secret: The laughter and love that pours out of Flavours of Jiangnan, which specialises in Eastern Chinese food, will bring a smile to the saddest of faces. Their handmade noodles are an absolute must-try. Find them tucked away under the Malabar Apartments in Dickson and expect to leave feeling like you’ve been hugged from the inside out.
Biggest culinary influence: My background is more bar than food, so I’ll answer this one based on nightlife, and I’ve got to say nothing inspires me more than my hometown of Beirut. Neighbours from across the Middle East and Europe flock to the Lebanese capital to experience its world-renowned restaurants, bars and clubs. You’ll find very few ‘themed’ venues, as each place carves out its own totally unique experience which is consistently reinvented by generation after generation.
Favourite cookbook: I don’t follow recipes, I just ask mum if I need some assistance!
Who I admire on the Canberra food and wine scene: Restaurateur Frank Condi has done great things for hospitality in Canberra. I was lucky enough to work in two of Frank’s venues, Sub-Urban in Dickson and Provini in the City, when I first moved to the Capital. He was a great mentor and boss who really believes in the people he hires and provides the opportunity for his staff to shine.
What’s on the menu this week: For drinkers who don’t mind their cocktails on the sweeter side, I’d recommend trying the Mango lassi (cardamom vodka, mango, fresh lime, Yakult). For a refreshing brew, the Yuzumi is sure to please. And if you’re up for an adventure, ask about our Beirut Express or Wasabi Martini.
Where I’m going next: Les Bistronomes, Campbell.
Death row meal: Oysters au naturel with a squeeze of lemon.
My COVID-19 response: As we don’t have a kitchen, we were pretty limited with what we could offer during the nine-week lockdown when we were unable to have patrons inside our venue.
You could probably hear our squeal of excitement from Queanbeyan when we were granted a takeaway liquor licence. We immediately began to offer takeaway and home-delivered cocktails and boozy bubble tea. People supported us from as far away as Croatia, ordering birthday cocktails to be delivered to celebrations they could no longer attend due to travel restrictions.
While this generated well below our ordinary revenue, it enabled us to continue to employ our bartender Kenny who is on an international student visa and was not eligible for any form of government support. It also introduced our bar and brand to a whole new audience, many of whom have since become regular customers!
My really simple recipe tip: Fried eggs cooked with lots of olive oil and butter, finished off with a sprinkle of sumac and za’atar. Serve with diced tomatoes, olives and flatbread (or whatever bread you’ve got in the cupboard/freezer!)
Soumi Tannous learned his trade in the underground nightclub scene of war-torn Beirut, and now delivers eclectic cocktails infused with Middle Eastern and European flavours at Beirut Bunker Bar, open Tuesday to Saturday from 5:00 pm at 25 Garema Place, Civic.