4-8 South St
Granville, NSW 2142
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.
First opened a whopping 20 years ago, El Jannah now churns out Lebanese-styled charcoal chickens across 4 highly popular locations in Sydney. The décor is a no-frills, fast food sort of set-up, accented with a distinctive shade of lime green. You order at the counter, and then either loiter about waiting for your takeaway box, or grab a table and have your food brought out to you straight from the grill lickety-split.
The first order of business is of course the chicken. The Half Chicken ($11) comes with sides of pickles, flat bread, and garlic sauce – toum – so creamy and potent you’ll wonder what on earth you’ve been eating up until this point.
As for the chicken, the meat is tender, but it’s the skin that’s the real winner. Rubbed with their secret marinade and roasted over charcoal, it lifts pristinely off the chicken in a whole gloriously golden shard, and disintegrates in the mouth with a burst of lemon and spices, and just the right amount of fattiness. It is miles more flavoursome than anything you could get from a local chook shop, and wrapped in pita with garlic sauce and pickles, becomes the epitome of simple perfection.
Unfortunately, the Shawarma Plate ($15.9) didn’t fare nearly as well. I chose it in the spirit of trying more things for the review, but that turned out to be a mistake. The beef was dry and tough, and I found the marinade way too tangy. This needed a lot of tahini and garlic sauce to get down.
So did El Jannah live up to the hype? Definitely, though there are a few caveats. The chicken, along with the garlic sauce, was without a doubt the best I’ve ever had, and I’d happily cross town for it. Everything else however was rather lacklustre; I had hoped for fresh pita instead of cold pita from a packet, and the beef wouldn’t be considered good even if El Jannah wasn’t so highly regarded. So here are my hot tips: get nothing that doesn’t have chicken in it, don’t skimp on the garlic sauce, and do takeaway wherever possible, because it slashes the prices almost by half!
Rating: 14/20 – KFC, eat your heart out!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.