43-45 South St
Granville, NSW 2141
I was first introduced to the world of Lebanese-styled charcoal chicken by El Jannah, which is considered by many to be the best chicken shop in Sydney. But the world of charcoal chicken in Sydney is a large one, and today I decide to go a block down the road from El Jannah to Hawa Charcoal Chicken – another magnate on the Sydney chook scene.
Like all good charcoal chicken places, you can smell Hawa before you see it, but only just. This place is so enormous it takes up about half a dozen store fronts, the seating area set up like a shopping centre food court. Except instead of a bunch of different stores, it is Lebanese-styled charcoal chicken from beginning to end.
Speaking of chicken, the Half Chicken Plate ($11.95) is a good place to start if you’re not sure what you want. The chicken tastes as good as it smells, the skin burnished to a charred crisp and rubbed down generously with lemon and herbs. The meat does get a bit dry when you get into the thicker parts, but a smear of garlicky toum and a bit of pickle solves most problems in life, this one included. Wrap it all up in some flatbread, and you’ll be a happy camper.
I’m all about that variety, and having heard good things about the falafel, I reckoned that the Veggie Platter ($17.9) would be a safe bet. I would’ve been happy with this spread any day of the week, but given that Hawa specialises in chicken, I was especially impressed by how good the whole lot looked. The dips (hummus and baba ghanouj) and tabouli were perfectly good if not outstanding, whilst the roast cauliflower erred somewhat on the bland side. On the opposite side of the spectrum was the grilled eggplant, the creamy slices framed with sweet, caramelised edges. Somewhere in between fall the falafel and vine leaves; the falafel had a good crunch and a satisfyingly coarse texture, but were too oily to be considered exceptional. Meanwhile the vine leaves were plump and liberally flavoured with herbs and lemon, but there’s nothing to set it apart from any other rice-and-tomato-stuffed concoction out there. But despite my somewhat ungenerous dissection of the components of this plate, I was actually really happy with it. Not only was the food varied and plentiful, there was not a single disappointing item. Although it won’t blow your mind, it really is more than the sum of its parts.
However, the million dollar question is this: how does Hawa compare to El Jannah? To be frank, I’m not entirely sure. I agree with the majority in saying that the toum at El Jannah definitely reigns supreme, but the chicken is equivocal. I can however definitively confirm that the non-chicken food at Hawa is superior. Whereas El Jannah subjected us to what was possible the most inedible beef sharwarma plate I’ve had in my entire life, Hawa does a cracking vegetarian platter that’s big enough to share for just a couple dollars more. In the end, I think it really comes down to personal choice, and whether you’re interested in eating anything beyond chicken and garlic sauce.
Rating: 13.5/20 – hawa good time.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.