If variety is the spice of life, then the North Africans know how to live. Stretching from Morocco to Egypt and Ethiopia, the cuisine is full of flavour and spices, with dishes that smell as delicious as they taste. While there aren’t a huge number of these exotic eateries in Sydney, the ones we do have are incredible. To tuck into a seriously good tagine or satisfy your craving for ‘sfinj’ (cinnamon doughnuts), here’s where to go.
To taste-test Tunisian, Moroccan and North African food with a harbour backdrop, head to Moorish Blue at McMahon’s Point. Open for lunch, dinner and brunch on weekends, the restaurant boasts lush interiors and a homely vibe. As for the food, it’s fragrant and flavoursome – think za’atar salt and pepper squid, veal with a drizzle of yoghurt dressing, and Tunisian ‘brik’, a type of pastry stuffed with tuna, potato, capers, herbs and egg.
139 Blues Point Road, McMahons Point
Take a trip to Marrakech by booking a table at this Randwick restaurant. To begin, get the green falafel bowl, vegetable pastilles or the ‘spicy cigars’, a Moroccan version of spring roll stuffed with spiced minced beef and tahini. Then, tuck into one of the signature tagines: the slow-cooked lamb with prunes and apricots is delicious, as is the barramundi with chickpeas, chilli, turmeric and paprika. For dessert, try the doughnuts along with a freshly brewed Moroccan coffee.
127 Avoca Street, Randwick
This Surry Hills café-slash-restaurant serves up Moroccan and Middle Eastern delights for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s bright and bustling, and the candlelit bar adds a little romance for the evening crowd. If you’re there first thing, order the couscous porridge or breakfast hummus with lamb mince and za’atar toast. Later on, start with the red pepper and walnut dip before moving on to the Moroccan chicken skewers, fattoush salad and the saffron halva to finish.
579 Crown Street, Surry Hills
A Merrylands hotspot, Aaboll Café is one of the few Ethiopian restaurants in Sydney – and it’s fantastic. The décor is as cheery and welcoming as the staff, who are more than happy to offer their seasoned suggestions. Along with poultry and meat like ‘kitfo’ (minced beef with chilli, spices and cardamom) and ‘tibs’ (lamb pan-fried with tomatoes and onions), there are plenty of vegetarian options. Whatever you do, be sure to try ‘injera’, a teff flatbread that’s a daily staple in Ethiopia.
140 Merrylands Road, Merrylands
For North African and Middle Eastern fusion fare, it’s hard to go past Radio Cairo in Cremorne. Everything is eclectic, from the décor to the dishes, which include Afro fries with paprika mayonnaise, piri piri prawns, boerwors sausages and Limpopo crocodile wings. Opposite the iconic Orpheum Cinema, the restaurant is buzzing most nights of the week, so go early to score a seat or join the post-movie debrief at the bar while you wait.
83 Spofforth Street, Mosman
Meet the first Egyptian food truck to hit the streets of Sydney: El Qahirah. The brainchild of Cairo-born owner-operators George Kaldas and Ishac Soliman, the duo serves up three of the most traditional dishes from their hometown. There’s ‘koshary’, a pie laden with lentils, noodles and rice; ‘taameya’, a fava bean and herb patty served with cucumber, tomato and tahini; and ‘fuul medames’, a flatbread filled with fava beans, spiced and lemon juice.
Follow the food truck’s Facebook page for the next location.
Located smack-bang in the middle of Enmore Road, this casual eatery is run by Sengalese-born chef Mohamed Diagne. He cooks up traditional North and West African meals such as a melt-in-your-mouth tagine lamb marinated in lime, olive oil, saffron and pepper, and perfumed couscous with boneless lamb, veggies and spices. While you’re eating, sip on the ‘flower drink’, a sweet Hibiscus-style beverage.
150 Enmore Road, Enmore
Kazbah’s chic, medina-inspired setting is the perfect place to feast on Moroccan food (and the odd Lebanese dish). The menu features tagines, kebabs, mezze plates and baklava, but if you’re with a group of eight or more, go for one of the banquets. There are nine- and 15-course options, both of which include silky-smooth dips, rocket and quinoa tabouli, and a selection of grilled meats and tagines. Our advice? Wear something loose!
Harbourside Shopping Centre, Shop 284, 2-10 Darling Drive, Sydney