The western suburb of Merrylands is a 35-minute train trip from Central. It's like a museum of traditional foods, clothing and the customs practiced by the thousands of immigrants living here. A five-minute walk from the station you’ll find an array of traditional Middle Eastern dishes – from Lebanese beklewa swimming in rosewater and orange blossom syrup, to Persian rice coloured gold by saffron and sprinkled with barberries.
Across the road from Merrylands station are some of Sydney’s best Persian kababs. Kaaj Restaurant offers a variety of grilled kababs – kubideh kabab (minced lamb), joojeh kabab (chicken), and barg kabab (lamb back strap), best accompanied by Iran’s saffron rice and shirazi salad (sliced tomato, cucumber, onion, mint and lemon juice).
While Kaaj Restaurant is best known for its kababs, you shouldn’t leave without trying zereshk polo, a dish of mixed plain and saffron rice topped with tart barberries and served with boiled chicken.
11/254 Pitt Street
(02) 8897 2176
Shiraz Ice Cream and Juice
This cafe is dedicated to one of Iran’s largest cities, Shiraz, and is the perfect place for a refreshing Persian drink or ice-cream.
In winter, sit inside and enjoy a hot cup of Saffron chai and a naan gerdooee, a walnut biscuit with a crispy base and a chewy centre.
On a hot day sit outside and cool down with a bastani (ice-cream). Don’t expect chocolate or caramel – instead try akbar mashti bastani, a saffron-and-rose-water ice-cream famous throughout Iran.
195 Merrylands Road
0447 611 179
Asal Sweet is a tiny store just off Merrylands Road crammed with Persian cakes. Here you’ll find familiar-looking desserts, including profiteroles and rolled sponge cake, but infused with distinctly Persian flavours, such as rosewater.
You’ll also find sweets unique to Iran, including naan berenji, a rice cookie sprinkled with poppy seeds.
Shop 4, Memorial Avenue
(02) 8810 7162
Mon to Fri 9am–10pm
Sat & Sun 10am–10pm
Bahar restaurant brings together the best of Afghani and Persian food under one roof. You can’t go past the mantu – a steamed dumpling stuffed with lamb mince and served in a spicy tomato-and-split-pea sauce. The spice of the dumplings is tempered by a cooling yoghurt and dried-mint dressing.
Special mention must also be made of the borani bademjan, a sautéed-eggplant dish that’s eaten with your hands; scoop it all up with soft Afghani bread.
Try it with with a jug of doogh – a yoghurt drink that cleanses the palate as you progress through a series of spicy dishes.
194 Merrylands Road
(02) 8677 7335
Kabul House Restaurant
Kabul House doesn’t just serve Afghani cuisine; it celebrates it with a loud and enjoyable ambience that draws in passers-by.
Begin with a serving of ashak, steamed dumplings filled with herbs and vegetables and dressed with a minced-meat sauce and yoghurt.
Follow with the okra curry, a dish that beautifully shows off a severely under- utilised vegetable (in Australia). You’ll leave Kabul House with a new love for it.
186A Merrylands Road
(02) 9682 4144
La Galette prides itself on having the best Lebanese beklewa in Merrylands. This patisserie makes these heavenly morsels of filo pastry and rosewater-sugar syrup with three different types of nuts: pistachio, walnut and cashew. All three are worth trying.
Take a box with different beklewa, biscuits and cakes home with you.
169 Merrylands Road
(02) 9637 4441
Sea Sweet Patisserie
Sea Sweet is another Lebanese patisserie bringing a little bit of Beirut to Merrylands. Sea Sweet’s must-try is the znoud el sett (or lady’s arms), a deep-fried pastry filled with ashta cream.
For something a little lighter try the pomegranate-and-pistachio malban. Malban is best described as the firmer and less-sweet Lebanese cousin of Turkish delight. Cut into small pieces and sold by the kilogram, you’ll likely walk out with a box of it.
256 Merrylands Road
1300 908 070