There’s a huge tray of baklava in the kitchen. Each honeyed roll is tightly bound to the next and it’s all covered in a hastily assembled layer of cling wrap. It looks like it has come out of a home kitchen.
“We used to go out for Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean food but we couldn't find it the way Mum and Dad did it. You couldn't get the cuisine top notch,” says Old City’s owner William Hussary. “We wanted to do everything from scratch. These are all my parents’ recipes.” Nothing proves this as well as Old City’s baklava. Even in the most respected and serious restaurants, hardly anyone makes their own baklava. It takes too long. “Even though it costs a little bit extra, it's how we want to do it,” says Hussary.
It’s not the only thing done in-house. All the mezze dips are made with fresh ingredients; the haloumi is homemade by Hussary’s friend’s mother-in-law; and the falafel has that crisp-edged softness you only get from a fresh bake. “You know the food and how it’s made when you eat it every day. I know how simple it is,” says Hussary.
Despite Hussary’s eagerness to promote old-school Lebanese food and distance himself from other Middle Eastern restaurants, the menu is pretty recognisable: mezze; roast meat skewers; and classic dishes such as samke harrah (barramundi served with lemon, coriander, pine nuts, tomatoes and tahini); garlic-and-lemon chicken; and stuffed zucchinis.
Where it differs from most Lebanese restaurants is how the venue looks. “We've tried to keep it modern and industrial but still casual,” says Hussary. Specifically, that means a low-hanging canopy of bare light globes, exposed bricks, black steel and simple wooden furniture. The other un-typically Lebanese aspect is the range of cocktails the restaurant is due to introduce in coming weeks. Hussary says Old City won’t be Levantine themed, more just new ideas.
Old City Kitchen and Bar
189 Missenden Road, Newtown
(02) 9550 5558
Mon to Sat 11am–11pm