I write this, still full from last night’s eight-course Middle Eastern degustation, a Secret Foodie event hosted by Ms Darlinghurst. At 5pm, I got the text “Tonight’s Secret Foodies dinner is in Darlinghurst. At 6pm you will be sent the final address.” An hour later a second text: “52 Oxford Street. See you at 7pm”. As curiosity reared its sprightly head, Google was my first point of call. Embers Mezze Bar? What’s that? I thought for sure it would be Almond Bar. I have never heard of this place.
At 6.55pm I tentatively walked up to the commanding sandstone edifice, not realising that my perceptions of Lebanese cuisine were about to be turned upside down. As the earthy flavours and rich textures of Chef Simon Zalloua’s modern Middle Eastern fare were put on display, all pre-conceived ideas of tabouli laden meat skewer feasts were swept away.
Greeted at the door by Ms Darlinghurst herself and friendly owner Henri Azzi, thirty odd foodies were ushered into a spacious dining room lined with tall arched windows, bold artwork and plush banquette seating.
With a glass of Lebanese wine in one hand and a crispy feta, lemon and herb pasty in the other, we mingled under a soft golden glow, emanating from lanterns strung high on the ceiling above.
Hummus with Afghani and sesame bread was first on show and the perfect way to begin before diving head first into a sweet mess of dukkah-spiced honeyed carrots with a goats curd cream. More Lebanese wine, and a colourful herb salad buttoned with chickpeas and cauliflower florets arrived at the table, dappled with pomegranate jewels and a zesty dressing. It was a hot favourite of the evening, along with other dishes such as scallop nayeh (a kind of ceviche with thinly sliced raw scallops), char grilled quail and melt-in-your-mouth lamb accompanied by pita bread to create a DIY shawarma.
The night was full of lively banter, fine food and wine, culminating in a Q&A with Chef Simon Zalloua. His Hercules-like stature was a bit too much for some of my dining cohorts, putting them into a tizzy (or perhaps that was just too much Lebanese wine?). Having worked in the kitchens of Rockpool and Alira, it’s easy to see why the food was so good. A sexy chef putting sexy back into Arabic food. Now who doesn’t want a piece of that?
Read more about Embers Mezze Bar here