I love a classic Middle Eastern restaurant in Sydney as much as the next guy (minus the pressure to get up and belly dance—a personal nightmare of mine), but it’s pretty exciting to see modern Middle Eastern food enter the Sydney eating scene. And it’s about time too… We’ve got modern Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Italian, but it seems as though not too many have hopped on board the modern Middle Eastern train, until now.
From the guys that brought us Sydney food truck, Eat Art Truck, comes new Glebe restaurant and bar, Thievery. There’s an open plan bar downstairs, meaning there’s no physical bar to divide the drinks and patrons, which leads me to ask if they’ve had any issue with people “helping themselves”. The answer? So far, so good.
The drinks menu is quite unique, with a Lebanese beer which may or may not be in stock depending on the Lebanese borders, an efficient wine list, and Middle Eastern inspired cocktails. I’m talking the likes of orange blossom, baklava, candied dates and spiced apricots taking centre stage from the list of humorously hip-hop named cocktails. The Baby Got Baklava is sweet and topped with rose floss and the Hotel Georgia is nutty and fruity, and dangerously easy to drink.
Upstairs has more of a restaurant feel where, if you look up, exposed ceilings reveal a mysterious red light and hints of objects collected/stolen by the guys through their travels. Part of me wanted to climb the ladder into the ceiling and explore, but the other part of me wanted to continue drinking my Hotel Georgia. No surprises, the cocktail won.
Anyway, no one wants to hear me talk about about roof cavities or my fondness for cocktails, so let’s get to the food. Ah, the food! Taking cues from Middle Eastern street vendors, the dishes are designed to be eaten with your hands and (like most food) are way better when shared. Devised by former Rockpool and Chin Chin chef Jordan Muhamad who heads up the kitchen, and Julian Cincotta (Nomad, Rockpool and 2015 Josephine Pignolet Chef of the Year) who consulted on the menu, the food is definitely Middle Eastern, but not as you know it.
I start with the not-so-glamorous baba ghanoush that’s served with pinenuts, sheep’s milk yoghurt and the quintessential flatbread. And honestly, it’s actually one of the best dips I’ve had in a while, which is a big call considering I’m usually all about that guacamole and hummus life. I’m not sure what else is in it (crack, perhaps?!), but it’s good. Real good.
Larger dishes include a wonderfully crispy, yet juicy, Lebanese fried chicken. I don’t really think LFC is a thing, but after working my way through the plate, I kind of think it should be. Next up are kebabs. And no, they aren’t like the ones you get from the likes of Olympic Yeeros on Oxford Street at whatever-o’clock. I order a wagyu beef sharwarma and the malek samke hara (snapper) kebab and, to my surprise, they come out on wooden boards and look like tacos… Lebanese tacos! The snapper is fresh and flavoursome, but the wagyu kebab is king. The beef is tender, the pepper is spicy, and it’s just so tasty I wish I had about 5,000 more to cram into my mouth.
Desserts are good, but are on the sweeter side with the pomegranate roast figs with sweet labne being a good one to share. There are also lady fingers as well as an ice cream kebab with chocolate Booza ice cream rose floss and chocolate pearls to finish off your meal.
If you’re a fan of brunch (if you aren’t, I don’t want to know about it), the Saturday brunch at Thievery is notoriously popular and books out on most weekends. With a super simple brunch menu including fried eggs, chickpeas, succuk and sheep’s milk yoghurt and shanklish, tomato, red onion and flatbread, it sounds like the perfect way to spend a morning before scouring Glebe markets.
All in all, if you like the sound of Lebanese kebabs, fried chicken, and cocktails without the belly dancing, this new Sydney restaurant should be on your hitlist. See you there, I’ll be face first into a wagyu kebab.
Image credit: Thievery