We were in Sydney for a quick stop over on our way to visit family in Nambucca Heads near Coffs Harbour in NSW. Zorba the Greek was on a quest for authentic Arabic food.
Our Egyptian-Australian host, Hubba, took us to Rowda Ya Habibi on King Street in Newtown. She warned us that the restaurant was nothing flash, but that the food was good. To us, that’s what mattered, good food.
We walked in, and like other reviews I’ve since seen, it does look a bit dodgy – like your standard take away kebab shop that you’d visit at 1am on a Saturday night on your way home from a big night out. But walk through the take away section into the modest restaurant out the back and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised by great cheap food. It is simply decorated, but that’s not what you come here for.
We were all craving mezze, so we ordered hummus, tabouli, babaganoush, falafel and stuffed vine leaves to get us started.
The babaganoush was a stand out – smokey eggplant that had obviously been charred properly before being peeled and blended.
The hummus was smooth with a nice hint of garlic without being over powering.
The tabouli was just the way I like it, fresh and heavy on the parsley and light on the cracked wheat. Tangy and tasty.
The falafel was beautiful – crunchy outer shell and soft nutty inner. They were served on a bed of tahini sauce and when mixed in a fresh slice of pitta bread with tabouli and hummus, they were beautiful. I felt like I was back in Egypt.
Vine leaves I could take or leave, they don’t float my boat and never have.
We also ordered a mixed meat platter, which was way too much food. The meat was delicious. We each stuffed a piece of soft pitta bread with hummus, tabouli and meat. Delicious.
The service was friendly, and reasonably efficient, although the owner serving us could have done with an extra waitress. The poor love was run off her feet.
Our resident expert Hubba said the food was authentic. From what I had experienced travelling through the Middle East, I thought the food was authentic also.
It’s BYO also, another bonus. Our bill for three people with left over food, came to $75. Cheap as you like for delicious arabic cuisine as long as you are happy sitting in a plain non-descript restaurant.
Rowda Ya Habibi
101 King St
Newtown NSW 2042
Phone: (02) 95575368