Even if you haven't got the slightest clue about Macedonian food, you might be surprised by how familiar it feels. Think Middle Eastern meets the Mediterranean, with a dash of Eastern European thrown in for good measure – Macedonian cuisine is a rich cultural mix of the best flavours and cooking traditions of these parts of the world, all rolled into one. In short, it’s a cuisine that integrates cues from some of Europe’s oldest and most venerated cultures into one compelling proposition.
Northcote is known for many things (craft beers, hipster coffee and that all-day brunch life), and the cuisine of brothers Miki and Igor Dodevski feels right at home among the cold brew and tattoos. “This is a restaurant we have wanted to create for a really long time,” says Miki. The brothers initially opened a cafe for several years to test the waters, before launching Lé Léé in March 2019.
“It was really simple. We wanted to showcase what we eat at home, and what most Macedonian families eat every day. Nothing different, just experience as authentic as possible,” he says. And boy, do they mean it. From the beautifully traditional slow-cooking clay pots used to braise aromatic meats till tender, to the chefs at the stoves (the brothers have spent a combined 30 years working at restaurants in Macedonia) and even their mum Vera, everything at their Lé Léé restaurant is Macedonian to the core.
“Mum was a professional chef for 45 years: 20 in Macedonia and 25 when she moved us out here when I was about 14,” says Miki. Mother Vera is modest, but her proud son Miki is delighted to share her claim to fame – not a hollow celebrity brush, but the fact she was chosen as an apprentice to cook for beloved former Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito. Suffice to say Vera isn’t your average home cook. She now presides over the kitchen at Lé Léé, making sure her recipes are still produced the way tradition dictates.
Mother Vera is modest, but her proud son Miki is delighted to share her claim to fame – she was chosen as an apprentice to cook for beloved former Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito.
A typical Macedonian meal starts with a laden table filled with dips and other meze classics like banica (crispy hand-rolled leek and cheese pastries), tarator (strained yoghurt with cucumber and garlic, not unlike Greek tzatziki), as well as platters of olives, and fried garlic-scented zucchini. Then, it’s all about hearty dishes of grilled, barbecued or stewed meats, offset by vibrant, contrasting vegetable dishes, all rich with the traditional Macedonian flavours and aromas of dried red bullhorn peppers, garlic and parsley. A key feature of Macedonia’s protein dishes is the mix of meat, so you’ll often find a stew of pork and chicken, for example, rather than a singular beast. “There is a saying in Macedonian," says Miki. "It loosely translates to ‘The lion is not the king of the animal kingdom, it’s the pig’.” So meat lovers will be in their element right here.
These days, the customer base is split 50/50 between the Macedonian community and local Melburnians. “We tested our menu out on our community first, and when they loved it, we knew we had a chance to make our dream work,” says Miki with a smile.
Whatever your background though, Lé Léé is proper feasting on an epic scale, so bring a crew (and maybe some stretchy pants if you know what’s good for you).
236 High Street, Northcote, VIC, (03) 9031 6507
Wed - Thu 5.30 pm - 11 pm
Fri midday - 5 pm, 5.30pm - 1 am
Sat 5.30 pm - 1am
Sun 5.30 pm - 11 pm
Part skinless sausage, part meatball, these ‘nekkid’ sausages are inspired by Balkan cevapi and Middle Eastern kofta.
Literally “fried bread slices”, these Macedonian favourites are a little bit like savoury a pain perdu (French toast) scattered with cheese. This version goes one step further, filling the bread for a cheese-overloaded multicultural mash-up.