Throughout Sydney and beyond into the city’s outer suburbs, restaurants are increasingly using Halal certified ingredients in their dishes. This is no new thing in Australia, particularly in Sydney, which boasts the highest population of Muslims in the country. From the ideally located Neptune’s Palace, which has been serving quality Malaysian and Cantonese halal food for over 20 years, to the award-winning authentic Lebanese cuisine of Al Aseel, diners seeking halal food won’t be disappointed with the number of quality choices available in close proximity to the city.
Malaysian / Cantonese
The Circular Quay end of Sydney might have skewed trendy recently, with new wine bars and restaurants popping up every other month, but Neptune Palace has held court in the area for the years, pumping out lauded Malaysian and Cantonese halal food for over two decades. Efficient waiters zip around, serving up deeply flavoured laksa to hordes of hungry lunchtime diners. The soft shell crab is a dish of wonder as is its cousin, chilli mud crab. Kari Lamb has a satisfying spiciness while the braised duck and Chinese mushroom is a winning combination. After the Pandan crepe for dessert, take a wander around the historic Rocks precinct.
Ten minutes west of the city is the split-level, split-personality Turkish restaurant, Efendy. Downstairs, there’s a raucous, playful meze bar, with a menu featuring dishes as diverse as warm vegetable shakshuka and Black Sea-style whitebait. Heading upstairs to the restaurant, you will find the service, décor and food are all a step above the rest. The seasonal menu reflects an emphasis on local, sustainable produce, from borek with wild herbs and tulum cheese to kingfish skewers with fennel and okra. The slow-cooked whole lamb shoulder pie is something to behold.
If you’re looking for an authentic halal dining experience, you can’t go past the original Al Aseed Restaurant in Greenacre. It is situated right in the midst of a vibrant Middle Eastern community and has been featured on Gourmet Food Safari and the Sydney Morning Herald. With four Sydney locations, including two in the inner city, with further locations in Greenacre and Lakemba, Al Aseel has gone on to cement its status as one of the city’s most popular and authentic Lebanese restaurants. The classics – from tabouleh and hummus to kebbe and falafel – never miss a beat. Monek, a pan-fried Lebanese sausage with lemon and pomegranate, has the right levels of acid to cut through while the grilled mixed skewers and lamb sharwama are guaranteed crowd pleasers.
Perched on Sydney Harbour, El-Phoenician in Walsh Bay (there’s a sister restaurant in Parramatta) offers a delicious blend of natural local beauty and international cuisine. With lavish furnishings, smart, efficient service, and wonderfully made food overlooking the water, this is top end, sophisticated Sydney dining. Traditional fare runs from baba ganoush through to mezza and grills including king prawns grilled in a simple lemon butter sauce. There are plenty of vegetarian options, including a chef’s salad and homemade labne. Be sure to appreciate the gorgeous views of Sydney Harbour Bridge on the way home.
It might be just a few minutes’ walk from the city, but Zaaffran turns its back on the city’s high rises with a balcony that looks westward across the sparkling Darling Harbour. While lucky al fresco diners can enjoy a balmy outdoor meal, the large open room has a wall of windows to enjoy the sunset glow. On the plate, it’s no less beguiling with a fascinating pan-Indian menu. Begin with the clean, rich flavours of lobster meat in tomatoes, onions ginger, mustard seed and coconut and then move on to the signature slow-cooked lamb shanks in chilli and coriander or the zesty oven-roasted salmon with lemon-lime reduction.