Eating with an expert is a great opportunity to learn, so when I was invited to eat Lebanese food with my mum’s Lebanese friend I was pretty excited. The Expert’s choice was in Arncliffe, which has a small set of shops including a Lebanese grocer, a Lebanese pizza shop that sells Zaatar pizza at lunchtime, and Hijazi’s Falafel.
Our Expert lead us in to Hijazi’s, and took us up to the counter so we could see the food. It’s worth taking a look at what’s on offer before sitting down with a menu, because you might spot something you wouldn’t have fancied otherwise. We discovered the fried cauliflower this way. It certainly went well with the hommous and babaganouj. The good news from the Expert was that the cauliflower isn’t normally floured before frying, and so was likely to be gluten free.
Lebanese food is perfect for sharing, but if you don’t have a big group Hijazi’s offers a mixed plate. It comes with three skewers, (lamb, chicken and kafta), dips, salad and tabouli, so it’s the way to taste everything. The hommous wasn’t very garlicky, but the babaganouj was a winner, being neither too smoky nor too bland. The meals are served with bread, which smelt beautifully fresh.
For a bigger group there’s a series of family feasts that you can order by the kilo. The half kilo feast provides six skewers with sides, and the one kilo feast has nine skewers. If you’re really hungry there’s even a kilo and a half feast, which is marked on the menu with a warning that it’s extra large.
Don’t forget the falafel either. Ours was pretty good reheated the next day, but I wish I’d tasted it fresh. Since it’s Hijazi’s specialty it would be worth a return trip. This falafel had no cracked wheat, but it’s worth checking since the Expert reports that it is a common ingredient in Turkish falafel even though it’s rare in Lebanese versions.
As we walked down the street, resisting the temptation to snaffle our take-away falafel, the Expert commented that she never feels uncomfortably full when the food is so fresh. I can’t say that I wasn’t full, but I was impressed with the food.
Ratings (out of 5 snorts)