59 Liberty St
Enmore, NSW 2042
I had possibly some of the best Middle Eastern food of my life when I incidentally stumbled across the now-wildly popular Cairo Takeaway, so imagine my surprise when a friend of mine told me that as although he agrees that Cairo is great, he thinks that Emma’s Snack Bar is better. Now if I weren’t who I am, I would’ve found some time to drop by Emma’s maybe a couple weeks after that conversation. As it stands, it’s been almost a whole 4 years. Sorry Ben, but at least I made it eventually!
Emma’s has been around for a long time, but it was not always a snack bar. Apparently in its previous incarnation, it was a bit more of an upmarket dining experience, but 2017 saw a rejig into a more casual, share-styled dining. And clearly this was a very good move, because the kitschy little place – definitely more snack bar than formal dinner – was packed to covid-capacity the first sunny weekend after lockdown was lifted. The friendly staff and happy groups of diners gave the restaurant a strong sense of family, and I was a big fan of the homely little touches, such as the granny-style lace curtains lining the windows.
Potatoes are good any day of the week, but the Hand Cut Fried Potato ($14) are truly next level. You can smell these crispy, roasty spuds the moment they hit the table, coated in an intoxicatingly pungent garlic sauce. A smidge of coriander and lemon cuts through the heaviness, but otherwise it’s salty, starchy goodness all the way.
The Oven Roasted Eggplant & Tomato ($17) may not stand out amongst its more vivacious peers, but it turned out to be a sleeper hit. The baby eggplant halves were slow-roasted until they were caramelised at the edges and jammy in the middle, then tossed through with a tomato sauce full of summery sweetness, and of course, plenty of onion, garlic, and good olive oil. Definitely get this if you see it on the menu, as it is a great example of just how delicious vegetables can be when done right.
Between the kibbeh and the Ladies Fingers ($17, 3pcs), we eventually decided on the latter. This was good, but I’ll admit not as inspiring as its predecessors. The golden filo pastry was filled with a tender mixture of lamb and pine nuts, with a hint of sweetness from pomegranate molasses. If you ask me, a little more sharpness in the molasses to bring out the richness of the lamb would’ve gone a long way, and possibly taken this from good to great.
On the other hand, I have nothing but good things to say about the Moorish Chicken ($24), aka the house special. When this first shows up, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this as nothing more than just a grilled chicken wrap. And although that’s technically what it is, I dare you to find a better combination of succulent char-grilled chicken and creamy garlic mayo. The flavours are so simple, but the balance of smoke and spices is utterly addictive, especially when coated in the rich sauce. It’s a heavy dish, but it’s one you’ll wish you had all to yourself.
So like how these stories usually pan out, I now hugely regret not coming to Emma’s earlier. There’s a reason why this place has been such a stalwart favourite for so long; it’s got all the ingredients for a feel-good night out. The food is well-made and easy to love, the ambience friendly and energetic, and the share-styled menu just begs for an extended dinner with a large group of friends. Add in the cheap BYO (if that’s what you’re into), and it’s basically a good time waiting to happen.
Rating: 15/20 – snacc.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.