Balmain has had a mini bar revolution in the past year, with the Cottage and the Balmain ramping up the cool quota in the suburb. Geographically, Balmain is in its own little world — it's slightly out of the way for those outside of the village, despite having a handy ferry service. Balmain is self-contained, and by default, doesn't get a lot of migrant diners. It does, however, have two great and inexpensive Middle Eastern restaurants, Kazbah and Efendy.
Istanbul-born chef Somer Sivrioglu's huge Efendy restaurant has been a Middle Eastern stalwart in Balmain for six years. Occupying a two-storey house, Efendy has a large front courtyard, a balcony and two levels of dining. Upstairs is white table-clothed fine dining, downstairs is the newer casual dining meze bar, which looks a bit like a students' union bar with a touch of Turkish decor. There's posters of B-grade Turkish movies on the wall and a bohemian vibe. It's one of the bigger restaurants in Balmain but, to its credit, has a cozy feel.
The food is Turkish with a twist — upstairs follows a more traditional Western approach, with entrees, mains and desserts. Downstairs has a menu of cheaper shared plates. The menu is based on street food in Istanbul, with the emphasis on pita, dips and fried, skewered meats. A cold meze board of six specials with bread to break and a group of friends is a good starter for $22. The six dips, from a pomegranate and capsicum hummus to a chilli tomato ezme, are among the best in Sydney.
Borek pasteries with pastirma beef and kashar cheese ($8) are filling and pack a punch, but the charcoal grill section host the fireworks. Hot chicken wings with mint yoghurt ($16) and veal kofte with white bean piyaz salad ($18) both have the right amount of spice. The traditional Turkish alcoholic beverage raki is available by the glass ($6), half-bottle ($45) and full bottle ($85), but only the most avid of aniseed lovers will get through more than a shot if unaccustomed to its milky sweet taste.
Efendy is a draw because it offers a casual and formal dining experience across two floors, so caters for two different crowds, while also boasting a spring and summer option with its leafy outdoor space. A hospitable place, indeed.