Middle East meets Mediterranean at this unassuming spot on a side street in Newtown. Old City Kitchen and Bar is only a couple of paces away from busy King St but it is significantly quieter and more intimate than say, its rockabilly neighbour Miss Peaches, located a mere two doors down.
The professional finish of the space is no coincidence, the team behind Old City are the same people who brought Sydney Lil’ Darlin. Everything from its interiors to the menu to the ambiance is influenced by the ancient region of Levantine (also known as Levant) which includes the Mediterranean part of the Middle East, such as Jordan, Lebanon, Israel & Palestine.
Hommus ($11) represents a big part of my food pyramid so it was a must order. The one on offer here is a classic recipe of chickpee puree mixed with tahini and lemon juice. I love how rich and flavoursome Old Kitchen’s rendition of it is. It goes fantastically well with the complimentary lebanese bread, both the normal variety and the deep fried pieces. Not only was it complimentary, it was bottomless. It was impossible to put down and in the best way possible.
Grilled Haloumi ($15) is another one of my guilty pleasures. This one came dressed in some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic and sitting on a bed of diced cucumber, tomatoes, onion and grapes. It was probably one of the best haloumi dishes I’ve ever had. Despite the simplicity, the cheese was cooked perfectly and for some reason had a really light and fluffy texture that I’ve never tasted before. Although I’m not sure if this was due to the haloumi they sourced or a particular technique, but more please!
Lamb Shawarma ($24) was a recommendation that came from our waiter as we wanted to try a meat dish that they were proud of. There are at least seven different meat options for mains so you are really spoiled for choice. The lamb came shredded on a sizzling hot plate, marinated in shawarma spices and onions with a side serving of tahini sauce and mixed pickles. Each mouthful was tender and incredibly tasty from the seasoning and marinade. I’ve only ever had shawarma from takeaway Lebanese joints in the past and I was amazed at how you could actually have this without the oily mouthfeel afterwards. I’m not a fan of pickles so that went untouched but I imagine the tang from it would help cut through the intense meat. I also didn’t think it needed the tahini sauce.
In the last few months, I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to vegetable based dishes at every restaurant that I go to. It’s no longer a side or an afterthought for me, it’s a big part of the meal and I am interested in seeing how eateries come up to bat for our green friends without lazy ‘mixed leaf salad’ options. This was our reasoning for opting in on the vege skewers ($18) that night which consisted of seasonal veggies, mushroom, zucchini, onion, eggplant and capsicum with some chilli and parsley sauce on the side. While it was not exactly something I would write home about, I still enjoyed it, so much that I ate 3 out of the 4 skewers that the dish came with. Everyone knows food just tastes better on a stick.
I felt a really happy, ‘contented’ kind of full from eating all of the above but naturally fate (and the waiter) tempted me with promises of dessert no reasonable diner would pass on. This dessert was a traditional knafeh ($10), which is ricotta, haloumi and mozzarella cheese melted and topped with semolina, syrup and pistachio. You read that right, triple threatening, triple cheese, triple deliciousness. The only thing I didn’t love about it was the distinct rose-flavour in the syrup.
Old City Kitchen and Bar is a tasty little addition to the plethora of options that are available in Newtown. Dine here if you’re after Middle Eastern food that’s tasty and fancier than your average takeaway joint without a fancy price tag to it.
Old City Kitchen and Bar
Address: 89 Missenden Rd, Newtown NSW 2042
Contact: (02) 9550 5558