312 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Until I moved to Sydney, I was never keen on falafel. In Melbourne, they were more often than not an afterthought, thrown onto the side of the obligatory vegetarian platter. Even at restaurants that specialised in falafel, they were never quite as delicious as the ones I’ve become used to in Sydney.
These days however, the thought of a bit of fried chickpea gets me rather excited. So when news emerged of Jimmy’s Falafel, where the chef apparently spent 3 months perfecting his special falafel mix (which unusually, is a combination of fava beans and chickpeas, rather than one or the other), I was there and ready to be delighted.
The opening of Jimmy’s has been rather fraught, due to no reason other than everyone’s favourite pandemic. Although they first started trading all the way back in March, they lasted just a mere 3 days before they were forced to close their doors, though orders from the takeaway window out front was still on the cards. They eventually reopened in May, but were only allowed to seat 10 in the gargantuan space – a far cry from what the chef originally had in mind, which was a bar with great food and drink, music, and dancing. But hey, baby steps I suppose.
When you first see Jimmy’s, it’s hard to imaging how this place could be the party destination like the chef envisioned. The shopfront is the spitting image of a late-night kebab shop, albeit a modern and fashionable one. The illusion continues a little more when you first walk in; the front of the restaurant is dominated by a huge open kitchen that wafts smoky goodness through the entire dining area, and the seating is very much utilitarian. But a metamorphosis takes place about halfway into the surprisingly large space. All of a sudden, there are plush orange banquettes, a long lovely bar, and wood-panelled walls where vintage tourism posters are lit by dramatic downlights. It is surprisingly luscious, and a very welcome change to the more sterile end of George St.
There are a few different pitas on the menu, but it’s hard to go past The Original Pita ($17). This was exactly what a good falafel sandwich should be – freshly fried falafel, crisp veggies, sharp pickles, and a generous helping of herbs and tahini. If I had any criticism to make, it would be that the falafel could be a little crisper, as the contrast between the crunchy shell and fluffy middle is one of the better things in life. But other than that, it’s a hearty meal you can eat with one hand.
Although the falafel is the poster child, the menu actually has a remarkably large selection of Middle-Eastern mezze, some of which are home-styled dishes you won’t find anywhere else, as well as meats cooked over charcoal once evening hits. But no matter how many exciting options the menu has, I find it hard to go past the Lamb Kafta Shish ($20). This was just fantastic, the juicy, smoky lamb perfect in its simplicity. The hummus and grilled tomato was a nice touch, but the lamb was so good it didn’t need anything else.
Less commonly seen at a Middle Easter restaurant is Calamari ($18) cooked over charcoal, so of course I had to have it. These came out in a startling shade of black, but not to worry – that’s just the fragrant crust of zaatar. The calamari itself was smoky and had a delectably creamy texture, its heavy charring counterbalanced by the thick puree of parsley and a squeeze of lemon.
The Wild Greens ($13) is a dish our chef grew up eating, and before you say wilted vegetables aren’t exciting, don’t. Despite its tame appearance, the cool dish of greens was packed with so much savoury garlicky goodness and tangy lemon that it was probably the most flavoursome thing at the table. It’s not often that I find myself heartily recommending a specific side dish of veggies, but in this case, this one is a must-have.
Dinner at Jimmy’s was quick and snappy, which belies the communal nature of the food and environment. The best way to describe it would probably be to say that it’s an upgraded version of your cheap and cheerful local Lebanese restaurant, with both the quality and the prices to match. It’s a fun place that’s suitable for almost all occasions, though watch out if your budget is a bit tight – those small dishes add up fast!
Rating: 13.5/20 – not just falafel.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.