MELBOURNE | Crazy Lover is the evolution of what was Brunswick café Steam Junkies. Co-owner/chef Nabil Zaman purchased the café during lockdown, keeping this much the same as they’d always been, offering a selection of Melbourne brunch favourites.
What he did change, was to introduce a few dishes that incorporated the flavours of his Bangladeshi heritage. Over time, the Bangladeshi influences on the menu grew, until the tipping point, where Nabil decided to go all in and transform the café into Crazy Lover.
By day, Crazy Lover offers a menu that fuses familiar brunch dishes with Bengali twists. Think beef bhuna Benedict, crispy bangla wings, and beef keema toastie. At night, it’s an a-la-carte menu of traditional Bengali dishes, Bengali street food favourites, and interesting takes on Bengali food that Nabil’s been experimenting with.
Nabil is a personable guy, and has a lot of interesting stories. He grew up in New York City, and has lived in Bangladesh, Boston, South Korea, and other places over the years. He originally worked in finance, but decided to jump into hospitality when he moved to Melbourne. The restaurant’s name, Crazy Lover, is a reference to his whirlwind long distance romance with his girlfriend at the time, and now wife, that saw him move from the USA to Melbourne, via Canberra.
Food was a big part of Nabil’s life growing up, and the food he serves at Crazy Lover draws upon his mother and grandmother’s recipes, the Bengali street food he loves, and a desire to do the food of his culture justice. He’s driven by a desire to introduce Melburnians to real, bold Bengali food that isn’t toned down, and to give Bengalis who live here a nostalgic taste of home.
Visiting Japan a little while back, Nabil was inspired by the memorable meals he enjoyed, interacting with chefs as they cooked in front of him. He recently reworked his café counter to become an open kitchen chef’s table, and it was this newly launched experience that I enjoyed.
At the Crazy Lover chef’s table, Nabil takes you on a food journey through a typical Bengali day. It starts with snacks that Bengalis typically enjoy on the way to work or school, and street food lunch favourites, before moving on to the larger meals that one might enjoy with their family at night.
Street food dishes include things like fuchka, spiced white peas in a crunchy shell topped with tamarind, and jhal muri – a spicy puffed rice ‘salad’. Other dishes include alu bhorta, a sort of spiced Bengali mashed potato (that’s underselling it), daal, and begun bhaja (Bengali eggplant fry) topped with beresta (fried onions). It’s all fantastic, with Nabil giving you his personal and the wider cultural context for each dish and the ingredients used.
To drink, it’s a small selection of cocktails, beer, wine, and non-alcoholic drinks. Try Nabil’s rose, gin-spiked take on the traditional Bengali drink, sharbot.
11 Florence Street
Telephone: (03) 9973 4309
Mon – Fri: 7:00am to 3:00pm