Yep. Lets do dinner at 7pm. Where shall we go?… Oh crap! Lets face it, we have all been that party organiser, racking our brains to find some creative watery spot in the CBD not overrun by tourists (Darling Harbour), premium prices (Circular Quay), too far over the bridge (Milsons Point) or too loved (Woolloomooloo Wharf). So we welcome a new entrant and a game changer to boot – Jounieh.
It’s taken over a wharfside spot, slap bang in the middle of Walsh Bay. You can tiptoe to the water, with front side seats to yachts and glamazon apartments. It’s got oodles of romance thanks to the sparkly night sky, no crowds, soft clinking of boats and an exclusive feel to a private hideaway no one yet knows about….
Yeah – sorry about blowing your cover. But we need to. The team behind the much loved El-Phoenician restaurant means that service is as silky as the baba ganouje. Head chef Charlotte Gonzales-Poncet (ex Felix, Coogee Pavilion and Song Kitchen) marries the nostalgia of a bustling Lebanese Souks with a contemporary feel. Its not heavy, predictable food, its feminine, fresh and exciting.
With a menu made for sharing, the boys will probably work backwards from King Plates of 1.3kg of chicken, Lamb shoulder or MBS3 Rib Eye. We buck the trend and go ‘Mezze’ as plates of silky homous, baba ganouje arrive with warm house made pitta bread so tasty we are wolfing it down without dipping! Then there is the fatoush – oh man! How good is that? It’s like an Avenger role call of super stars, each element casted beautifully from the iceburg lettuce, radish, dashi pear, sumac vinaigrette and the crispy pitta bread.
Small Plates continue the fun. Calamari, croquettes of snapper with chilli and coriander then the Arnabeet arrives. It’s a half head of cauliflower, sun kissed to a golden glow, soft, unctuous with a tarator base, just slice, scoop and pop in the mouth. Kibbi Nayeh of finely ground lamb fillet with spices is well balanced. If you are constantly caught in a Bugs v King Prawn dilemma there is something for you here. We came down on the side of the prawns this time, its saffron beurre blanc sauce and sweet aleppo pepper just nailed it.
Throw your wine list bias into the harbour. We did not expect this. Beer with salt, Prosecco from Euston NSW? Where are they finding these gems? It’s a romp through NSW, Europe and beyond.
Nothing about this place, is what you think it might be. It’s one of the most romantic spots to dine in Sydney, with food which is thoughtful, true to origin, but creative in the experience. There are not many forgotten ‘hoods’ in Sydney, but this is one you hold a little close, and save it for those you really want to share something special with.
17 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay 2000
Hours: lunch wed-thurs 11 till 2.30, Fri-Sat 11.30 till 4pm. Dinner Tues-Thurs 5pm till 10pm, Fri-Sat 5pm till 11pm