Slotting into a building that looks like it should be condemned, and cleverly making a feature of it, Thievery has a renegade aesthetic. Climbing the rickety staircase up from the packed bar level, you’ll find a likeable room with Arabic graffiti along one wall and magenta light streaming through designer-bombed out holes in the ceiling.
This imagery cheekily summons the images of West Asia constantly bombarded onto our television screens. At the same time, the modern, pan-Arabic menu speaks to cultural borrowing and the porous nature of global cuisine.
Despite the full restaurant, things get underway very quickly. Friendly wait staff steer us away from hummus and into Baba Ganoush ($14). Here the creamy, smoky eggplant dip is dabbed with sheep’s milk yoghurt, dotted with pine nuts and drizzled with burnt butter, giving it smoky, nutty appeal on flatbread. Dining with a vegetarian, our meal is weighted towards cheese. I can’t profess to be unhappy about this, especially when our Warmed Mozzarella ($14) arrives, combined with spiced oil and fig jam on flaky bread.
It’s followed with a golden mound of Haloumi ($19) cheese, with the saltiness offset by a puddle of honey and macadamia dukkah.
Made in a strangely arranged bar where bartenders work with their backs to diners, standing in the passageway between front door and dining room, cocktails are thematic and fun. Marketing speak would add something about dissolving the barrier between drinkers and bartenders here, though I’m more inclined to say it’s about capitalising upon limited real estate. Fo-Fizzle Ma-Rizzle ($17) a Beefeater gin concoction with rhubarb, lemon, sour cherry and rhubarb bitters edges out Baby Got Baklava ($17) that treats Maker’s Mark bourbon with amaretto, lemon and pistachio. Both cocktails go well with the Lamb Kafta Pancake ($19), a simple but tasty affair with lamb wrapped in a crisp pancake, topped with fresh parsley, sumac onions and tarted up with lemon and sheep milk yoghurt.
For a small bar, the wine list is impressive enough to quash any desire for further exploration of the cocktail list. It’s full of interesting options, including some from my favourite mid-range producers, Ochota Barrels and Jamsheed. We start with the latter, in the 2016 Jamsheed Roussanne ($68), to accompany Roast Broccoli ($14), nicely charred and served with labne crème, burnt honey and za’atar.
With the unique Turmeric Baghrir ($18), a golden crumpet topped with confit leek and four mounds of crème fraiche and grape molasses, we moved onto the 2014 Wines for Joanie Chardonnay ($104). It’s a cracking Tamar Valley chardonnay offering up grapefruit, bread, and flinty characteristics. It's also a wine, as a keen chardonnay drinker, I’ve not seen on other Sydney wine lists.
Rounding out our mostly vegetarian meal with some well-disguised greens, the Sheesh Barak ($16) are Lebanese dumplings stuffed with braised silverbeet and yes – more cheese – in this case, it’s shanklish. The plating is pretty, with micro herbs and fried chickpeas, though this joint is definitely more about flavour than where it puts things on a plate.
While Toasted Rice Ice Cream ($13) got me intrigued into ordering dessert in the first place, the nigella seed and za’atar-crumbed ice cream was a bit sour and uninspiring.
The Failed Blackberry Cheesecake ($14) on the other hand was crazy-good, against burnt butter crumb, verjuice and grape molasses. This dessert was a feel-good ending in a setting where atmosphere is prioritised over good Instagram imagery. Well played, Thievery, for using terrible lighting to help keep the focus upon good times and simple, good tasting food.
91 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
Ph: (02) 8283 1329