There are two things that really annoy me. One, when you get a song stuck in your head and just can’t shake it. Two, when it rains on a weekend. Yesterday the odds were stacked against me. Coming up to the end of our first year of Secret Foodies we’ve been asked several times “will you ever do breakfast”? Miss Freakie and I go bonkers for breakie so decided it was time to try a place that’s been on our hit list for some time now. I’ll give you a hint…the song I’ve got stuck goes like this:
Sharia don’t like it, rockin the… Casbah. Rock the Casbah. Sharia don’t like it, rockin the Casbah. Rock the Casbah.
Yeah you guessed it, on this rainy Saturday morning we were on our way to Balmain for the infamous breakfast banquet at Moroccan and Middle Eastern inspired restaurant, Kazbah. Out front the line to get in seemed longer than fans lining up to see The Clash but like their entourage and groupies we had VIP access (ok, maybe just the best seats in the house) at the front window.
Kazbah opened in Balmain in 1998 by Zahi and Penny Azzi who wanted to give Sydney-siders flavours they’d never tasted. For them, food was all about sharing, a communal way of dining and a collective embrace of food. Exactly what Secret Foodies is all about!
You’ve heard of Man vs. Wild, but head to Kazbah and you’re in for a Man vs. Food when you order the breakfast degustation. Instead of being trapped on an island or stuck in a desert you’re set in a gorgeous open-plan dining room filled with bright bold colours, polished timber chairs and artifacts from the Middle East. Ornamental light fittings hang from the ceiling, there are crayons to draw on the white paper tabletops and beautiful patterned plates are laid before you.
The degustation starts with banana porridge with date compote served with brown sugar and warm milk, warm rice pudding with saffron poached pear and hazelnuts and sweet couscous, mixed nuts, dried fruits and a side of rhubarb puree.
The waiter tells us to pace ourselves but I don’t think he emphasises this enough and although we have an idea of what’s to come we all get stuck in. I love all of the flavours and enjoy the warm rice pudding the most. Eating couscous for breakfast for the first is special and I’m excited to try and make this myself at home.
Kazbah are famous for targines and breakfast is no exception. We have two types of tagine, the roast pumpkin (vegetarian) and the lamb mince both with spinach, roast capsicum, roast tomato, caramelised onion, feta and eggs served with Lebanese bread and Turkish toast. The first time I ever tried a breakfast tagine was at Cumulus in Melbourne and I absolutely fell in love. Eating them again at Kazbah reminded me of the fresh flavours and unique textures I’d so enjoyed in Melbourne.
I look around the table and a few people are ready to throw in the towel (or napkin) and call in a day. But in this Man vs. Food challenge we are only half way there.
Then it’s time for a large platter of eggs done three ways, scrambled, poached and fried on Turkish bread and the breakfast hot plate of roast tomato, haloumi, potato hash, bacon and lamb sausages. There are also sides of baby spinach, mushrooms and baked beans. I enjoy a poached egg and grilled haloumi, both cooked perfectly. The haloumi is crisp on the outside while lovely and soft on the inside without that rubbery texture.
There’s coffee and freshly squeezed juices being sipped around the table and after our hot breakfast we take a small ‘time-out’ before the last course (yes there’s more). It’s an intimate group of first time foodies sitting around the table and they all agree this has been a delicious introduction.
Naturally my advice is to pace yourself when tackling the breakie deg at Kazbah but if you’re like me and you’re eyes are bigger than your belly perhaps try the ‘eat now, think later’ tactic. In which case, try not to pause too long or you won’t have room for the pancakes at the end. Our eyes are teased with a chocolate pancake with butterscotch sauce and chocolate fudge ice cream and a banana pancake with maple syrup and double cream.
The pancakes are delicious, I like chocolate the best but some think it’s too rich and sweet. I think pancake inspired ‘flat-cake’ may be a better way to describe the thick and fluffy creations. After our breakfast dessert Executive Chef, Ross took time out of the kitchen to have a chat. When he’s not running around managing the kitchens he’s relaxing on his farm with his kids outside of Sydney. His favourite eat is a chicken and mayo sandwich, his drink of choice is whisky and he enjoys playing with his kids and breeding Irish wolfhounds.
Kazbah has three restaurants, Balmain (the original), Darling Harbour and Top Ryde. There is rumour of them opening in the Eastern Suburbs later this year (HOORAY!).
My only criticisms of Kazbah and the breakfast degustation would be that it's super busy so make sure you book and I did feel a lot of food went to waste because we couldn’t eat it all. Make sure you pack your appetite or at least ask them to pack you a doggy bag to take home!
That said, I think Kazbah does the best breakfast in Sydney and can’t wait to go back.