At the end of my visit to the new Westfield Sydney a few weeks ago my dining buddy, CocoChanel, suggested we meet up in Lakemba for some fair-dinkum Lebanese food.
CocoChanel had inadvertently stumbled upon El Manara a few weeks ago after an appointment in Lakemba. She tells us the décor is nothing fancy, but that the food is good….so good in fact that she’s been back at least four times since first discovering this gem of a café.
When we arrive at Lakemba and wander up Haldon Street to the restaurant, I feel like I’m on holidays in another country.
The shop signs are all written in Arabic (or it could be Lebanese – so forgive my ignorance) as well as English and people are wearing traditional Muslim dress. Just like our visit to Cabramatta last weekend, I feel elated that I’ve driven less than an hour from my house and I’m able to experience a totally difference culture without having to board a Qantas A380 to anywhere.
We arrive at El Manara smack bang in the middle of lunch and the place is totally full. Whilst we wait for a table we peruse the neon-lit menu board on the wall (and admire the wood panelled walls circa 1970) and discuss what to order – everything looks SO good.
CocoChanel tells the owner she’ll have her regular Mixed Plate ($15.00) and it sounds so good that I order one for myself.
The Boy decides to finally try Hoummos with Meat ($10.00). We’ve been seeing this dish at various restaurants lately, but we’re always tempted by something else so it never ends up on our table.
The Mixed Plate is a perfect combination of all the essential Lebanese goodies you'd want to try.
The plate is overflowing with Falafel, Hoummos, Tabbouleh, Chicken, Lamb Shish Kebab, Kafta and Kebbeh.
Everything is beautifully tasty and I love being able to try so many things all in one meal. I think the Chicken is my favourite with its smokey BBQ flavour and some crispy bits to crunch on. I'm also pretty keen on the Kebbeh...oh, and the Kafta! The Boy loves the Lamb Shish and we both agree the Falafel is great with a crunchy crispy outside and light fluffy innards.
For me though the Meat with Hoummos is the real winner! God it is SO good. The Hoummos is smokey and has a really nutty flavour. The meat is laced with toasted almond slivers that make the dip almost impossible to stop eating.
Our meal also comes with the ubiquitous side dish of pickles and bread. The dish of pickles is topped with fresh sprigs of mint which is great wrapped up in the bread with hoummos and some of the meat.
El-Manara Lebanese is at 143 Haldon Street, Lakemba.