There's a spacious terrace, seats at the bar and the usual 2 - 6 people type table arrangements. Having not booked and it being 7pm on a Saturday we did think we would struggle but the friendly host showed us to a bar height ledge with folding windows splitting it down the middle with seats on one side on the terrace and seats on the other inside. The folding windows, I can imagine, can be opened up so that the separation is eliminated but on a wintry evening probably best to keep them there.
Given that we wanted to keep things light and speedy, we were advised to avoid the banquet and ideally the large dishes as they could take some time and there was already a rush on in the kitchen apparently as everyone had arrived at the same time.
Merguez - duck sausage served with spiced lentils, pomegranate molasses and fresh pomegranate
Lamb ribs, red dukkah, lime and date
B'stilla - duck and chicken pie, almond, cinnamon and saffron (unpictured)
Cauliflower, pine nut sauce, ras el hanout and herbs
Beetroot, chilli labneh and walnuts
Our food arrived pretty quickly in spite of the rush of orders and although we'd been told about the pressure the kitchen was under, it certainly didn't feel stressful in the dining area. The light, bright and spacious dining area was comfortable and friendly with a mix of diners from families to couples on dates and groups of friends.
The duck sausage was well flavoured and the sweetness and sharpness of the molasses cut through some of the dense richness of the meat.
The lamb ribs were sticky and spicy in terms of fragrant aromatics as opposed to chilli with a sweet finish.
The salads arrived next and both were slightly warm which was nice. The beetroot and chilli labneh was a great flavour combination. The larger chunks of beetroot were slightly undercooked so a little harder in texture but this didn't compromise flavour.
The b'stilla was a cute little octagon covered in icing sugar and densely packed meat and nuts formed the filling. I thought it might be dry but it was just on the right side of dry and the almonds added a really good crunch.
We were in and out in less than an hour so this visit really provided us with what we wanted on this occasion. That being said, I'd love to be able to spend a bit longer and enjoy some of the slow cooked meat dishes but the fact we could have a lighter, grazing type dinner shows the versatility of the restaurant.
B'Stilla is like the grown up, more refined version of the B'Stilla Cantina which is definitely more wayward teenage child. There's no mashed potato sandwich for a start but then the South Yarra clientele is probably not that way inclined unlike the Fitzroy massiv! So just like siblings, there's room for both children in a mother's heart!