There is only one rule to abide by when you enter Lillah Kitchen - don’t waste table real estate on your phones. Instead, use the compartments beneath to store your belongings and "leave the table for the important things – the food!" exclaim duo Trevor Blye and Roy Ner (from Sydney's Nour), who have brought Lillah's story to life.
These flavour masterminds have come together to rebuild the Middle Eastern comfort dishes you know with a modern touch, without sacrificing on flavour or the family-friendly communal celebration that are the hallmarks of this cuisine. Lillah, which means “beautiful night” in Arabic, is a place where Egyptian, Israeli, Lebanese and Turkish cuisines all come together into one action-packed menu.
A lot of TLC has gone into turning the space into a peach-coloured glasshouse. Exposed brick, high ceilings and terracotta tiles create a wonderful backdrop to the vibrant and smoky meze menu that unfolds.
“We cooked every Middle Eastern dish just like we knew it,” says Ner. “The food is simple and humble at heart. We wanted to create a comfortable space to showcase the flavours and dishes we grew up eating but with our own modern twist”.
With Persian flatbread in hand, navigate through the usual suspects of baba, smoked labneh, house pickles, crunchy falafels and off-the-bone spiced meats to instantly reach your happy place. Smoked za'atar lamb "malawach tacos" made with a flaky Yemenite pastry, popcorn chicken shawarma and crisp falafel headline the starters; it's the 300g of slow-cooked lamb on the bone, selection of hummus bowls and the lesser-known Israeli street food favourite the "laffah" roll (which screams early lunch) that brings it all home for the mains.
So what makes this kitchen tick? It’s their rather impressive selection of housemade additions: zhug (a Yemeni green-chilli sauce); charcoal tahini, chermoula gravy, pickles, kohlrabi and beet slaw, as well as their killer, 9-hour slow-burn "old-school" tomato salsa.
"We also want to showcase the beauty of vegetables, the balance of light and fresh with rich and heavy, and our vibrant salads, charred eggplant, and fried cauliflower are at the forefront," says Ner.
And with a selection of Lebanese wines and a cocktail list spanning saffron, fairy floss and their signature avocado fizz, make sure you leave room for drinking and their dessert duo (yes, order them both!).
In the left corner, it's Nutella baklava with honey gelato, which is made by a three-generation run bakery in Auburn, and in the right corner, it's their take on a traditional 'mahalabia' - brewed panna cotta, Persian figs, berries, sesame snaps, rosewater and pomegranate sauce - almost too pretty to eat - almost.
From go to whoa, you'll instantly become part of Lillah’s ever-growing family just the way those share plates intended it.
128 Longueville Road Lane Cove, NSW 2066
Tuesday - Friday 12pm - 3pm, 5pm- 10pm
Saturday - Sunday 12pm - 10pm