It’s been literally yonks since I’ve had a good Middle Eastern meal, and as I’m only a few weeks away from moving out of Sydney’s southern suburbs – one of the best locations for no-frills Lebanese food in the city – I was keen to use that time to check out some of the more popular restaurants in the area. And if you prowl a little around the internet, you’ll see that Al Yasmin is a name that comes up frequently on the best-of lists. Having expected a cramped, fluorescent-lit space, the reality came as a pleasant surprise. Not only is the space brightly lit, clean, and spacious, it even had some rather pretty paintings of desert scenes hung along…
Call me naïve, but when I first moved to Sydney, I was astounded by how much everything cost. Having grown up in Melbourne, where things already don’t exactly come cheap, I scoffed at everyone who lamented at the cost of living in Sydney. After all, how much worse than Melbourne can it really be? As it turns out, quite a bit. Not only was rent mind-bogglingly expensive, the food was also markedly dearer. What started as a joke between Chris and I that one Sydney dollar is worth one-and-a-half Melbourne dollars became woefully true – we did indeed find that if we multiplied the cost of what we think a meal should be in Melbourne by 1.5, we ended up…
The best restaurants are those that you stumble upon, and that is exactly how I came to know about Cairo Takeaway. I was wandering through Newtown a few months ago after dinner, when I spotted an ancient-looking pot through a non-descript door, filled with falafel floating in golden oil. Naturally my interest was piqued, and a quick peek inside revealed a cosy, homely restaurant that seems to specialise in Middle-Eastern food, if the falafel vat and counter of fresh salads and pickles were to be believed.
When it comes to food, the premise of ‘the more authentically ethnic, the better’ has never yet led me astray. Frankly, nothing excites me more than walking into a suburb and seeing a bunch of family-run, hole-in-the-wall ethnic eateries. So when I got out of the car in Lakemba and saw all the grocers and bakeries selling food I had never even heard of, I knew that I was in for some seriously good food at Jasmin Lebanese Restaurant.
Before moving to Sydney, I had heard my share of horror stories about the city, along with the accolade for the beaches, weather, and Asian food. ‘The rent is so expensive!’, everyone would say upon hearing about the move, before following up with ‘and the roads are just awful!’ In my naivety, I wrote the warnings off. I mean, it’s not like Melbourne is exactly cheap, and I’ve seen the M3 at peak hour – I figured Sydney could only be so different. Oh how wrong I was.
In Melbourne, charcoal chicken is something you get when the fish and chip shop next door is closed. In Sydney however, it seems to be so much more. Instead of second-rate takeaway, charcoal chicken is serious business. Like other cheap ethnic eats – such as banh mi and dumplings – everyone seems to have their opinion on where to get the best version, and the most popular places have what can only be described as cult followings. But no matter who you ask, the name El Jannah is bound to pop up in the list of favourites.