Eat, Restaurants, Sydney / 24 January 2012

Move over Shakira, Ms Darlinghurst puts her hips into action in a Lebanese shake down at Sydney’s hottest new Lebanese fine dining restaurant. 

The thing about Lebanese restaurants is, that I absolutely love the food, but it’s not safe. I mean, one minute you’re tucking in to a top tabbouleh, dipping flat bread into the best damn humous you’ve ever tasted and considering marrying a Lebanese man and his mother. The next you’re getting dragged into the middle of the restaurant in front of complete strangers clapping and cheering. A buxom belly dancer shimmies her hips like Shakira while you, at best look like Steve Erkle doing the Macarena. Am I right?

Lebanese isn’t safe. Now, give me a drunken Christmas party or hen’s night out and that drunken confidence may be just what you need to enjoy that kind of place. For those looking for something a bit more refined, with fewer surprises and equally amazing food make your way to El-Phoenician at Walsh Bay, Sydney’s first inner city fine-dining Lebanese restaurant.

This is the second offering from the El-Bayeh family, well known for their first El-Phoenician in Parramatta that has been open since 1998. Brothers George, John, Tony and Peter have all been in the hospitality industry for over 30 years and offer a more up market and contemporary approach to traditional Lebanese cuisine.

No dark moody lighting or cushions thrown across the room, at El-Phoenician the interior is light, crisp and elegant. With a relaxed vibe during the day and vibrant atmosphere at night it’s a stones throw away from the Sydney Theatre Company and Sydney Dance Company and sure to be a popular place for lunch or dinner.

Staying true to tradition the food is served banquet style starting from $46 per head including grilled meats, seafood and traditional Lebanese dishes such as homous, baba ganouje, tabouli and sambousik-minced lamb, pine nuts and onion wrapped in pastry. The kibbi nayeh is amazing, raw tender lamb with crushed wheat, served with onion rings. Don’t be turned off by the rawness it’s fantastic. For mains you’ll find shish kebabs, kafta and bata b-kizibra- diced potato fried and tossed in fresh coriander.

The wine list is courtesy of Nicole Galloway, owner of Fei Jei and Barrio Chino and offers a number of local and international wines carefully selected to match this style of food. For those of you who think I’m a spoilsport don’t be upset, book a table on any Friday and Saturday as belly dancers are guaranteed. My advice is do the dancing early and focus on the food, you’ll struggle to shake comfortably with a post banquet belly.

El Phoenician

7 Towns Place, Walsh Bay

(02) 9633 1611

Open 6 days a week (Tues – Sun) for lunch from 11.30am and dinner from 5.30pm.

Belly dancers every Friday and Saturday night.