Sydney isn’t known for great Pakistani food. If you asked most people where to find it, they might guess Harris Park, Auburn or Enmore. Now some of Sydney’s best Pakistani food can be found in an unlikely location – King Street Wharf.
The touristy strip of Darling Harbour has been home to the second venue from Surry Hills’ upmarket Pakistani restaurant, Lal Qila, for two weeks. Originally Lal Qila’s owner, Namir Mirza, wanted to open a gargantuan fine diner in Dural, but after some complications with a lease he settled on this site and a different concept. “These days you can find fusion everywhere but authentic and traditional food is very rare. Particularly in the city centre,” Mirza says.
While most of the menu is a replica of the Surry Hills offering (fresh bread out of the tandoor oven; biryanis made to order; and curries in ceramic pots), here Mirza has added dishes he feels are either particularly traditional or uncommon in Sydney. One is sakandri raan, a supposedly 2000-year-old recipe for lamb, slow roasted in a tandoor oven. “Whole lamb shanks are also new; sultani nalli we call it. It’s in a rich tomato sauce,” says Mirza.
There’s also tawa chop, a spicy street-food dish that consists of a warmed plate covered in meat (your choice), tomato, onion and ginger. And kunna gosht, a tangy curry with mutton or lamb on the bone. “Lots of people talk about butter chicken, rogan josh and vindaloo. We don't focus on those dishes. You can have them at any Indian restaurant. We are focusing on Pakistani dishes,” says Mirza.
The other novelty is the addition of a buffet section. “It's for lunch only because in this area there's a lot of office people. Indian and Pakistani food is very time consuming. They don't have much time when they come for lunch,” says Mirza.
Visually the two Lal Qila restaurants are quite different. The dim lighting, Pakistani antiquities and crowded tables of the Surry Hills site have been forgone for natural light, more space and white tablecloths. Mirza also has plans to introduce an Indian-inspired range of mocktails to go with his selection of non-alcoholic beer and lassis.