Taste of home - Samir Allen

. April 13, 2020
Taste of home - Samir Allen

At St Kevin’s Aracade on Auckland’s characterful Karangahape Road, a little piece of Lebanon has made its home.

Samir Allen
Chef / owner, Gemmayze Street

Since 2016, Gemmayze Street restaurant has not only been plating up sensational Middle Eastern food, it’s also celebrated and clung fast to the four staples of any Lebanese gathering: food, hospitality, love and family. (Samir’s adherence to these principles extends to him offering up the space every Monday to pay-as-you-feel project Everybody Eats, see page 32 – as well as taking a turn in their kitchen too). While Samir grew up in Dunedin, his Lebanese mother’s culture was a big part of his upbringing. After studying Culinary Arts at AUT in Auckland, then working at The Grove and Baduzzi, Samir now applies his fine-dining skills to the dishes his mother, grandmother and great-auntie cooked. At Gemmayze Street you can choose the ‘jeeb’ – the chef’s choice of sharing plates. Some you will be familiar with, such as hummus, baba ghannouj, lubneh, falafel, tabbouleh... while others, such as kibbeh nayeh (lamb tartare); foule (peas, buffalo curd, pickled shallots and salted yolk); and ossem lu’eh (moemoe potatoes, cultured cream, cumin granola), might be new. To eat at Gemmayze is to feast – in the beautiful setting of the monochrome-flagstoned, stained-glass windowed arcade, watched on by the photographs of Samir's family – and to revel 
in the joy of a universal shared ritual. 

Samir: I’ve chosen kibbeh bi seyneyeh because it is my nana’s recipe, and nana was one of the main reasons I fell in love with food and cooking for people. She was the one in the family who cooked it best, and she taught me how to make it when I was young. She also helped me get my own recipe right for Gemmayze Street. This was one of my favourite dishes to eat as a child. I remember going to nana’s house for an azeeme (feast) and always going straight for the kibbeh. Kibbeh is still a mainstay at any family gathering we have, but nana doesn’t cook anymore so the role has been passed onto me. 

Find Kibbeh Bi Seyneyeh recipe here.