Just off bustling King Street, Old City is a friendly newcomer paying tribute to the food culture of Jerusalem, a fabled city where influences from around the Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and North Africa have congealed into a culture where food is heavily tied up with notions of community and family.
The space is simple and uncluttered and makes a feature of hanging light bulbs. There is booth seating along an exposed brick wall, a small open bar in one corner and, on the night of our visit, also a saxophone player pumping out soft rock favourites. Overall, it's got a general family-friendly vibe.
Entrees include crumbed and fried feta balls ($12), which have a good hit of saltiness. If that's not enough, there's more cheesy goodness in the form of the grilled haloumi ($15). Made in-house from a family recipe, Old City's haloumi is far more airy than its often rubbery counterparts found around Sydney, and comes with halved grapes and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
It's very much a menu made for sharing and is particularly good for groups. There are a range of big sharing plates, including the Old City platter, a veritable feast with bowls of hummus, baba ghanoush, tahini and tabouli as well as falafel, meat sambousek (like Middle Eastern samosas), marinated chicken, lamb and kofta skewers and pickles ($45). The hummus (also available separately for $11) is smooth and the baba ghanoush — which comes with a swirl of olive oil and pomegranate arils in the centre — is smoky ($13); both are made to be mopped up with folds of Lebanese bread. If you're looking for a lighter dip, the labneh ($11) is a moreish, tangy treat.
A platter is an ideal (and, let's face it, easy) way to sample the restaurant's offering, though if you're still not satisfied, another dish they're particularly proud of is the lamb shawarma ($24). It's slow-cooked for five hours and comes with pickled cucumbers and turnips. For dessert, the rice pudding ($10) is classic comfort food, a nicely sticky concoction with a neat row of sliced fresh strawberries sitting across its creamy surface.
Drinks include a selection of classic cocktails, like a Sazerac ($17) and some of their own creations, like an Old City Gosling ($20) which is fresh and punchy. The wine list features mainly Australian and New Zealand selections with a lot of selections at the more affordable end of the scale.
With its friendly neighbourhood feel, a laidback atmosphere and plenty of vegetarian options amongst a traditional menu, Old City is a loving tribute to a city which takes its food traditions very seriously.