The round-up: Brisbane’s best Middle Eastern eateries
The world of Middle Eastern cuisine is as varied as it is delicious. Drawing upon some of the oldest living cultures in the world, this type of food is not just about filling your belly – it’s about the experience of sharing with friends and family. These communal vibes combine with amazing traditional cooking techniques and ancient recipes to create a dining experience that truly transports you to another world – and luckily, Brisbane is bursting with its own amazing pockets of Middle Eastern eats to try. From shakshuka to shawarma, we’ve rounded up the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Brisbane that will make you feel like part of the family.
Gerard’s Bistro, Fortitude Valley: When it comes to Middle Eastern cuisine in Brisbane, Gerard’s Bistro has been a kingpin in the scene since opening in 2012. The James Street institution is famed for its refined and inventive take on the style of food, using traditional techniques showcasing local produce. Executive chef Adam Wolfers delves deep into lesser known regions of the Middle East, plating up dishes such as coal-grilled cabbage skewers with tabil tahini, pork brisket with persimmon amba and kishk, wood-roasted tiger prawns with smoked whey, and celeriac filo with aged sesame and zhoug. Cocktail and snack-oriented sibling Gerard’s Bar is also a worthwhile dining spot if you enjoy Middle Eastern fare – think laffa bread, garlic oil and za’atar, eggplant fatteh with pine nuts and yoghurt, short rib tagine with barberry and raisins, and sujuk manoushe.
ZA ZA TA, Fortitude Valley: From day to night, the stunning surrounds of ZA ZA TA will fulfil all of your Middle Eastern food fantasies. The gorgeous space lends itself well to chef Roy Ner’s shared-style meat-free menu of eats inspired by centuries-old Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes. Highlights include zucchini baba with pistachio and charcoal squash, shish barak-style pumpkin dumplings with burnt chili butter, eggplant h’raime with tomato gazpacho, tahini and autumn greens, and sliverbeet-and-feta börek fingers with heirloom tomato and organic egg.
Mecca Bah, Newstead: Who says you have to wait until sundown to enjoy a Middle Eastern feast? Part lavish restaurant and part sultan’s palace, local icon Mecca Bah takes its menu from day to night with a series of inventive dishes made authentically – as if starting your day with dukkah eggs and basturma doesn’t sound like a total dream! The full menu standouts include steamed Persian green-style dumplings, African spiced shredded lamb with fresh cucumber and baby spinach, and Moroccan seasoned honey and sesame chicken tagine.
Naïm, Paddington: If brunch is your game, Naïm is the name you need to know (try saying that three times, fast). This Paddington institution has been pumping out impeccably made Middle Eastern dishes with heart for ages – including Turkish-style eggs with sautéed wild greens and crispy basturma, Tunisian-style baked carrot falafel shakshuka, and Turkish Delight waffles. Naïm also opens for dinner from Thursday to Saturday, serving up mezze boards, charmoula steak shish, Lebanese-style steamed pipis, confit harissa chicken.
Caravanserai, West End: Ask any West End local where to go for true Turkish delights (not just the sweets) and Caravanserai will inevitably get a glowing mention. With more than 20 years of business under its belt, this beloved spot does traditional Turkish cuisine like no other. Take a big crew, order a bunch of the share platters and thank us later. From the prawn-and-mussel pilaf with harissa rice and char-grilled chicken shish skewers to the spinach and five-cheese filo pastry cigars and the Turkish pide dripping with garlic butter – everything is delicious.
Bamiyam, Coorparoo and New Farm: Ever been curious to try authentic modern Afghan cuisine? Local icon Bamiyam has two places to sample it! Blending elements of Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines, Bamiyam’s fare might be simple, but it’s incredibly delicious and undeniably hearty. Curate a feast comprised of mantu (steamed lamb minced and onion dumplings), kachaloo bolanee (a 10-inch pan-fried naan stuffed with potato, shallot, herbs and spices), Afghan street-food skewers and protein-filled curries.
Ahmet’s, South Bank: Follow the sound of jangling jewels to Ahmet’s, an Istanbul-inspired haven in South Bank loaded with lively atmosphere. If the regular appearances by belly dancers weren’t enough to sway you, the food will certainly do the trick. The food offer draws its origins from centuries old recipes and is designed to be shared. Two banquets are on offer – one for carnivores, the other for vegetarians – to make the decision-making process simple. If you’re eager to go a la carte, you’ll spy the likes of Turkish chorizo pides, manti lamb dumplings, cheese and spinach gozleme, lamb iskander and Nutella baklava.
Beirut Bazaar, West End: Beirut Bazaar at West Village is a Lebanese eatery that was one of the first tenants of the new-look Peters Ice Cream Factory. Boasting traditional aesthetics and modern glamour, the eatery takes in the width and breadth of Lebanese cuisine to create an experience that lends itself to choose-your-own-adventure-style feasting. Start with dips or a selection of cold and hot mezza before tucking in to kebbi nayeh (raw minced lamb with burghul and spices), shawarma, sambousek (fried pastry pockets filled with meat or cheese), aranabeet (fried cauliflower pieces) and batata harra (deep-fried potatoes) among others.
Pilpel, Redcliffe: Traditional Israeli cuisine and culture is on show at Pilpel, which uses locally sourced, seasonal ingredients across its extensive menu of Middle Eastern dishes. Get a group together and book in for Pilpel’s signature Israeli set menu, which features 15 hot and cold entrees served to the table, followed by a share platter of char-grilled meats, dessert and Israeli tea or coffee.
Little Beirut, Indooroopilly: Lively and energetic Lebanese bistro Little Beirut brings a little slice of authentic culture to Indro, focusing on amazing share options and hearty traditional mains done brilliantly. Guests can choose from a selection of hot and cold mezza options to start (think Lebanese style minced-meat sausages, fetta cheese with herbs and spices, and creamy dips) then fill your belly with marinated chicken shawarma, samkah harrah (marinated barramundi), marinated lamb cutlets with fattoush salad or a heavenly Beirut vegan plate.
Downtown Istanbul, Hawthorne: Traditional flavours with a contemporary twist is what Downtown Istanbul is all about. Boasting a bustling Turkish bazaar atmosphere, this lively spot serves up tasty eats and treats along the lines of Turkish-spiced chicken wings, pilic sehrezat (char-grilled chicken, beetroot, creamy mushroom and rice pilaf), guvec (traditional Turkish casserole with braised lamb) and a range of pides. The rich flavours and hearty portions here will ensure you leave totally satisfied.
Byblos, Hamilton: Channelling the bustling, cosmopolitan and international fare found on the Mediterranean coast of Lebanon, Byblos serves up exotic Middle Eastern flavours and tastes in a lavishly appointed setting. Start with a trio of dips (hommos, baba ghanouj and labneh, of course) with freshly baked bread, then move on to larger mains like moghrabieh before finishing with something sweet – kataifi bi jibn (a baked sweet cheese pastry) will make you drool.
Baba Ganouj, South Bank: Ever heard of saj? You have to head to Baba Ganouj to get a taste. This authentic Lebanese haunt specialises in this unique dish – a freshly baked bread cooked to order on a dome-shaped hotplate, sprinkled with toppings as it simmers away. Sign us up! You can also find classic dishes like shawarma, kafta, soujouk and loads more.
Farah, Spring Hill: Tasty, healthy and generous are three words we would use to describe the fare at family-owned Farah in Spring Hill. The extensive menu celebrates the best of Persian cuisine cooked exceptionally well – think mains like Persian kebabs, fish with mixed green rice and slow-cooked stews alongside traditional desserts such as saffron ice-cream and faloodeh.
Istanbul 1923, New Farm: New Farm’s Brunswick Street gained a very delicious tenant with the opening of Istanbul 1923. Affordable prices, genuine flavours, generous servings and outstanding hospitality have combined to create a favourite spot for locals to come together and dine. Dips, salads, sides, pide, mains and more create a huge menu with something for all tastes.
Olive Thyme, Albion: The team at Olive Thyme really walk the talk when it comes to imbuing true culture into their food – founders Sibel and Yalcin are migrants on a mission to bring the real tastes of Anatolia to Brisbane. Starters like sesame calamari and Mediterranean octopus set the scene for main courses including pirzola, imam bayildi and lamb shish. Oh, and don’t forget to leave room for kunefe – a dessert featuring shredded kadayif, soft cheese, sugar syrup, roasted hazelnut, vanilla-bean gelato.
Mado, South Brisbane: Mado is all about teaming local produce with authentic flavours, all wrapped up with a sophisticated Turkish and Ottoman cooking technique. Turkish dumplings, kibbeh, ali nazek and moussaka are all stand-out dishes that will have you coming back for more, while the dessert selection is well worth exploring – the kunefe is to die for.
Limon, Underwood: Those on the southside need look no further than Limon for a legit Middle Eastern foodie fix. This family-run affair places utmost importance on authentic flavour and high-quality ingredients. The seafood menu here is something quite noteworthy – fish tagine, garlic chilli king prawns and crispy calamari break up the rest of the meaty options.
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