“It’s meant to be in some kind of alley?” I say. I’ve seen the photos online, and they make the venue look more spacious than alley dining usually affords, but what do I know? The street is dark and moody; it’s quieter here than in the more pedestrian-ed part of Surry Hills, and we like that a lot. We’re peeking down passageways and listening for the sound of merrymaking.
We find it, thanks to the discreet sign (look up), and make our way down a narrow corridor with angles and turns until we end up in a cosy open atrium-like space between two heritage-listed buildings. It’s a special spot, to be sure. With a glass roof overhead (WAY overhead) and lots of greenery, it’s homely and inviting. The view to the kitchen and its busy culinarians is unobstructed, and our seat at the bar is the best one in the house – I highly recommend sitting there. We sat at the very end, so we could have whatever private conversation we wanted to have while being part of the action and watching our dishes as they were prepared for us.
Modelled on the “sights, sounds, smells and spirit of Tel Aviv’s vibrant, bustling markets”, the dishes here are aromatic, delicious and elegantly plated. Ben Richards, formerly of cult favourite Cafe Paci, sits at the helm as Head Chef for owner Erez Nahum and lends a deft touch to dishes like Burnt Eggplant Labneh, Marinated Flank Steak and Chicken Cigars. The menu is representative of the best of modern Middle Eastern with a dash of local inspiration.
Available in a la carte or a Chef’s Selection set menu, the latter option provides an opportunity to taste and try a greater variety of dishes. At the weekend, brunch feasts are available with a 90-minute bottomless drinks package, too. We watch as plates go by, everything looks divine, to tell you the truth.
Bookings are essential as the hot little number has been getting ALL the buzz. Currently rated first of 26 restaurants in Surry Hills (no small feat), it’s the total package.
Shaffa 80 Albion St, Surry Hills NSW 2010. Opening hours are Tuesday-Thursday 5:30pm-late, Friday-Sunday 12pm-late. Weekend brunch seatings are at 12 pm or 2:30 pm, and bottomless packages start at $37. Closed Monday.
*According to TripAdvisor.