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AALIA

Take a tour through the history of Middle Eastern cuisine at this 150-seat venue in the former MLC Centre.
By Ben Hansen
March 11, 2022
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By Ben Hansen
March 11, 2022
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A new and unique dining experience has arrived at Martin Place from the team behind some of Sydney's most renowned restaurants. Aalia is the new flagship restaurant from Esca, the hospitality group in charge of Nour, Lilymu, Henrietta and Cuckoo Callay. The group's latest and most extravagant offering, Aalia, is opening in the new dining precinct in the former MLC Centre space.

The 150-seat restaurant offers to take diners on a journey through the history of Middle Eastern food. The dishes have been created by the restaurant's Executive Chef Paul Farag of Nour to demonstrate the rich culinary diversity of the area.

"Through food, we're trying to showcase a beautiful region of the world which almost everyone seems to forget has a luscious coastline, flanked by oceans, rivers, and seas," Farag says. "I want this menu to reflect a lighter way of shared eating — in the same way you assume a Mediterranean restaurant is going to be bright and fresh in flavour, this is truly the same principle for Middle Eastern cuisine."

Diners will be presented with a wide array of raw and mezze options to begin their meal. Oysters ($6), king salmon ($29), potato and lentil tart ($9), king prawn skewers ($18) and hand-stretched haloumi ($23) are all on offer for those looking to create an abundant table of shared dishes or ease into the meal before turning to the impressive selections of seafood and meat.

As for the larger dishes, think Murray cod masgouf ($65), almond-crusted John dory ($54), lamb neck shawarma ($56) and mb5+ dry-aged wagyu rib ($26/100g). There's also Persian caviar service on offer, served with malawach, shallots, labneh and a sprinkling of chives.

The indecisive among us can leave the selections up to the chefs with the $125 per person banquet menu, curated by Farag himself. Designed to share, the degustation is available for parties of four or more and features the lamb shawarma, almond John Dory and haloumi, as well as eggplant mes 'a' aha, quail skewers, a spread of Middle Eastern sides and a decadent Valrhona chocolate kataifi for dessert.

"The idea behind the menu itself is to start with a few raw dishes and mezze, followed by mains and sides, with each dish crafted to represent a particular region or specific era of Arabic culture," Farag says.

Highballs, spritzes and inventive cocktails are all on offer to accompany your one-of-a-kind feast. Start off easy with a peach vermouth and hopped grapefruit spritz ($20), or opt for something a bit more stiff like the tobacco old fashioned ($24) made with raw cacao bourbon, date molasses and orange tobacco.

Venue images: Christopher Pearce

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