Mecca Bah

Rating: 14/20

  • 25-29 Manuka Terrace, Flinders Way, Manuka, 6260 6700
  • www.meccabah.com
  • Owner Platinum Group, chef Zahangir Alam
  • Open seven days from 11.30am
  • Licensed, no BYO
  • Wheelchair accessible
A view of the open kitchen at Mecca Bah, Manuka.
A view of the open kitchen at Mecca Bah, Manuka. Photo: Marina Neil

Mecca Bah has been a popular spot on the Canberra scene for quite a few years now, and it's had some highs and some less-inspired moments.

On our most recent visit, things seemed to be well on track again, and we found ourselves back in the zone that we like about Mecca - dim lighting, tealight candles along the back of banquette seats, cushions, plush colours, and loads of good-time-friendly Middle Eastern-themed food.

You can get a bunch of starters, the likes of sweet-potato falafels with tahini sauce ($11), Turkish lamb kofte with yoghurt ($13) - little sausage-shaped meatballs, and lamb and pinenut boureks ($13), spiced meat in pastry triangles, all OK, if not glorious. Turkish bread comes warm and seared from the oven.

The action is in pizzas, boat-shaped and knotted together at each end to contain the fillings.

A favourite is sardines with caramelised onion and olive pizza ($20). Excellent. Or pastirma, with roast garlic, fennel and goat's cheese ($21), overloaded with the meat and rocket. Or roast pumpkin, chilli, pomegranate jam and feta.

Another good thing to eat here is the tagine of lamb meatballs with egg and spicy tomato sauce ($24), the eggs baked on top of the meat and sauce - a good, simple, warming dish. Service can be hit and miss, if well intentioned and friendly, and the wine list needs work.

But Mecca Bah makes the top 20 list this year because it's a generous, happy and relaxing place to be with some pretty decent food and a nice feel. We're not the only ones who feel this way.

It's a large space, well divided into more intimate areas so you don't feel the size, and it's always busy.In summer - or in winter if the heaters and blankets meet your needs - it can be really nice sitting out on the terrace here in the large covered area. And after dinner you can take a couple of long strides and you'll be at the cosy Mecca Bah bar.