I’ve tried a lot of cuisines. French, Guatemalan, Brazilian… and just about every Thai restaurant that has ever turned its name into a pun.
It’s been a while since I truly thought, “Huh. Well I’ve never seen that before.” Until now. Egyptian food?
Yeah, I know. I felt the same way. It’s that feeling of, “I feel like I should have had this before, but I’ve never seen Egyptian food in Sydney. Is it a thing?” Turns out it’s a thing. And Newtown’s curiosity is well and truly out to play.
Cairo Takeaway is modestly hidden away on the corner of that part of Enmore Road that comes after Oporto. And I mean hidden – despite the line of waiting customers I manage to walk past directly in front of the shopfront, twice, without seeing it. But the glass facade leads to a small, busy and vibrant restaurant serving its take on Egyptian fare. Small, round wicker tables dot the sidewalk; it’s a game to not knock them over (or your drinks!) as you take a seat.
Inside, spinach falafel balls buzz in a giant vat of oil, while waiters bring out huge plates of colourful vegetables and dipping sauces, and giant steins of coloured drink. The diner has the vibe of a fish and chip shop crossed with a fancy kebab house. And the revellers love it, each squeezing their way through the tiny space while holding a charcoal chicken pita wrap with pickles and toum tightly in their fingers, presumably heading towards the Cow & The Moon gelato shop just up the road.
I sit and sip the sugarcane juice that has been placed in front of me, and consider my surroundings. Soon, two oversized partners of mezze-style pickings are brought out, and the table again feels just that little bit too small and unsteady. Cairo Takeaway is famous for its street-style fare – the falafel rolls quickly sell out at $8.80 a pop. The menu offers a fantastic mix of vegan and vegetarian-friendly recipes, plus lamb kofta for the rest of us.
We go for the vegetarian mixed plate: the cauliflower is an immediate standout. Nutty and moreish, it’s the kind of food you wish your nonna knew how to cook so you could have it in your life more. The garlicky toum is a fantastic side; added to pretty much anything on the plate, it gives a sharp punch of flavour and makes the more bland elements (I’m looking at you, Egyptian spinach lasagne) come to life. The colours are really vibrant, and you feel like you are eating art.
Same goes for the meat platter. Each morsel has its own unique place on the platter, but the charcoal chicken is a real winner winner chicken dinner. Everything is sprinkled with paprika or mixed with an aioli, but honestly, if you chuck it all in a bit of pita (a bitapita to be precise) it’s a delicious feed.
And it’s cheap. The crispy onion-laden traditional bowl of koshari is enough to feed two at just $14. Granted it’s just lentils, rice and pasta, but the mix of spiced and hot sauce make it closer to a carbohydrate hug.
Cairo Takeaway is small, and still finding its feet – but the lines don’t lie. It pushes the Egyptian cuisine that few have ever tried in Sydney into the spotlight, and deservedly so. And the joint is right up the road from the Enmore Theatre, promising a great meal to line the stomach. Go on, try something new, and stop being in de-Nile (I had to.)
PRICE PER MAIN
Cairo Takeaway is located at 81 Enmore Rd, Newtown. For more go to facebook.com/cairotakeaway.