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18° & PARTLY CLOUDY ON THURSDAY 27 JUNE IN SYDNEY
By Daniel Herborn
May 21, 2015
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Thievery

An inspired Middle Eastern restaurant and bar with a cracking vegetarian feast.
By Daniel Herborn
May 21, 2015
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BOOK A TABLE

Distressed walls are a surefire way for a restaurant designer to add a bit of edge to an outfitting. At Thievery they've just gone ahead and smashed massive holes here and there. It's an audacious flourish which befits Thievery's approach to Middle Eastern food — there's an obvious love for the cuisine here, but also a determination to take it in bold new directions.

The menu promises 'stolen recipes' and invites punters to come and conspire with this new shady crew. All this attitude would be little but window dressing if the food wasn't any good though, and thankfully, it's outstanding; an inspired new venture from the crack team behind the much-loved Eat Art Truck.

Fried cauliflower fattoush ($15) will be your new favourite way to eat cauliflower. It comes with big chunks of firm tomato, chopped herbs and crisp flatbread made for sopping up the sauces. Equally good is the hummus ($9), a familiar staple given an ingenious twist with the addition of burnt butter. You'll clean up every last nutty-flavoured drop.

They've also got a range of kebabs (all $14), which are kind of deconstructed gourmet versions of the hearty, sloppy fare you wolf down stumbling home in the early hours. These are much smaller, but packed with zing, closer to the freshness and flavour of Ottolenghi than to fast food. Grab the snapper ($14) before it runs out; it's sprinkled with chilli and almonds and goes well with a dash of the smoky zhoug sauce on your table.

There's traditional arak and Middle Eastern beers, as well as cocktails (all $16) that are creative and uniformly good. Try a Hotel Georgia — a pretty concoction of foamy nutmeg, orange blossom and gin — or go for a stronger tipple with the Hairy Camel, where Hennessy cognac is rounded out with house-made spiced apricot, bitters and lemon. There's even a Baklava Got Back, with a wisp of pistachio fairy floss adding a savoury middle Eastern touch to Maker's Mark bourbon, amaretto and honey syrup.

The latter is a good match for the almost jammy goodness of pomegranate glazed figs ($12). Sweet tooths will love the indulgent ice cream kebab ($8), slathered in chocolate ice cream, topped with rose fairy floss and then scattered with chocolate pearls.

There will always be a place for traditional Middle Eastern restaurants pumping out baba ghanoush, falafel and tabouleh, and Sydney has some stunning old-school joints. Thievery, however, makes the case that there's also a place for cheeky upstart contemporary Middle Eastern, and that it's somewhere you want to be right now.

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