Catch Fred Jaber of Fred’s Oil and Oregano in a talkative mood, and you’ll get a story with your sojok (Turkish sausage) pizza.
There’s the one about the origin of za’atar, a thyme-based spice mix. “This is a dead-set true story,” Jaber says. “Thirty days after the flood, Noah sent a pigeon to find dry land. The pigeon came to a little town in south Lebanon and brought back an olive branch.”
According to legend, at the base of that olive tree grew a tough little sprig of thyme that became the base of a dish that’s been gracing Lebanese breakfast tables for as long as anyone can remember.
Jaber’s za’atar pizza (his signature and favourite) is a simple dish; light, fluffy flatbread is topped with a mixture that Jaber makes himself from thyme, sumac (a slightly tart Middle Eastern spice), salt and sesame seeds.
“You cannot trust buying a bag of za’atar from Lebanon. It doesn’t taste like it used to,” he says. “When I do my mixing, for the next three hours in the kitchen you can smell the beautiful za’atar. The more you put sumac, the better the taste comes. It should be a bit tangy.”
The menu has safe options – cheese pizza, tomato pizza – but for the best experience, ask Jaber for a recommendation. Sojok is served on pizza with cheese, tomato and chilli. There are also pastries such as ricotta and spinach or haloumi and spinach.
The usual soft drinks are on offer, but try an aryan for something authentic. It’s a salted yogurt drink that’s nearly as old as the Noah’s ark story. “When the Arabs, 2500 years ago, used to cross the dessert, sometimes they ran out of water,” says Jaber. “They used to milk the female camel and put in a bit of salt. For 24 hours they don’t feel thirsty.”
In a suburb where it’s becoming more difficult to find an affordable lunch, the bakery offers hearty fare for cheap.
Dulwich Hill locals might remember Jaber’s original Zeit and Zaatar, a bakery that incongruously shared a lot with a car wash, a fruit shop and sometimes a fresh-Christmas-tree stall on New Canterbury Road. Fred’s Oil and Oregano has swapped the gritty charm of that location for high tables and stools and plenty of greenery. There are large bi-fold windows that let light and cool air into a shop that’s well warmed by its hardworking oven.
Fred’s Oil and Oregano
542 Marrickville Road, Dulwich Hill
(02) 958 4488
Mon to Wed 6.30am–3.30pm
Thu to Sat 6.30am–4pm