If there's one thing the suburb of Canterbury lacks it's trendy restaurants. Instead, the area is littered in car dealerships, bathroom showrooms and desolate properties waiting to be snapped up by building developers. But in amongst the grime and grit is a modern gem serving up an eclectic mash-up of Mexican and Turkish fare, which people from all over Sydney pack out almost every night of the week.
You'd have no idea Pazar was even there if it wasn't for the pink neon sign. From the outside, it looks like an old, derelict garage with peeling paint and faded signs situated on the busiest road in Canterbury, but on the inside, the change of scenery is remarkable. There's loud music, carnival lighting draped from the ceiling beams, wooden feature walls, an open kitchen complete with a wood-fired oven, waiters ducking in-between tables and an atmosphere that's buzzing with chatter. And it's much bigger than you'd expect, too. They've built a colourful outdoor area that's conveniently covered with retractable panels to keep the elements in or out, depending on the weather, and they've dropped in an old shipping container to enclose the space — with the idea that it might eventually become the space for a takeaway drive-thru.
When it comes to the share menu, there are 15 savoury options to choose ranging from $5–38, eleven of which are vegetarian. And they do things a little bit different here. While there is table service, staff won't take your original food and drink order at the table (well, not verbally). Instead, grab a paper menu and pen off the table and get ticking. That's it. When you're done choosing, just hand your order over. However, any orders that follow can be ordered later with your waiter. They're a friendly bunch.
The first thing you'll want to tick off on your menu is the maple-smoked labne with nectarine and fennel jam, sesame seeds and pepitas ($15). It's phenomenal despite simply being strained yoghurt. It's creamy, smoky, crunchy and sweet, sort of like adding quince to cheese and crackers, but so much better. However, it doesn't come served with bread, which is an extra $5. The kofte ($16) aren't your typical kofte either. There's no ground meat, but rather spiced red lentils, bulgur and mixed pickles that come served with a plate of lettuce cups, which makes it look more like san choy bao than the Middle Eastern staple you're used. It's surprisingly tasty, however — almost like the real thing.
You also won't find falafel, but instead zucchini herb balls with feta and sumac yoghurt ($10 for 3). The flavour is delicate and the texture is spongy. If you want to be wowed, then the ember-blackened pumpkin with pepita chimichurri, feta and toasted almonds ($24) will do just that. You can watch the chefs roast the pumpkins whole in the wood-fired oven from behind the back counter until they're completely charred on the outside and perfectly orange and cooked in the centre. For meatier options, the roast pork belly with smoky chipotle salsa, pineapple and quinoa salad ($34) probably isn't worth the price tag, but it does come with some superbly crisp crackling.
The drinks menu is small, but still covers most things — from cocktails to craft beer to sangria and wine. The only thing you won't find is sparkling or Champagne by the glass, so if you love bubbles, you'll have to settle for a $58 bottle instead. There are also no split bills, so you've been warned.
Whether you live in the neighbourhood, or just passing through, this one in a million restaurant (in Canterbury) is definitely worth a visit if not several.
Images: Kitti Smallbone