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I love restaurants that really transport you to another place with their style and décor, which is why I was thrilled to have a Lebanese feast recently at Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant in Surry Hills, Sydney, Australia.
The Middle Eastern spot has two pillow-filled party rooms perfect for large gatherings, while the main dining room offers a cozy dining experience decorated with rugs from the area, pillows and comfy cushioned seating, artwork, decorated plates and hanging adornments.
The spot is BYO, a feature I’m always excited about in Australia because it helps you save money and sip on exactly what you want.
The vegetarian meal consisting of nearly a dozen tapas courses kicked off with hoummos ($9 AUD) and baba ganouj ($11) and a massive mound of khobz, or Lebanese bread, whose pockets allowed you to create sandwiches to your heart’s content.
I’ve never been a huge fan of baba ganouj because of the runny versions I’ve encountered, but this one was thick, creamy, garlic-packed and delicious.
The hoummos was top-notch, too, with a great thick consistency. Next up was tabouli ($13), in a heaping bowl, again, not overly-watery and chopped so that it was easy to scoop up and combine with the other elements. It was vibrantly green and a great khobz addition.
Falafel ($7) came next, generous donut-shaped bites of the fried chickpeas. They were fried well, not overly hard or soft, and I enjoyed the sauce drizzled over the falafel.
Sliced eggplant ($12) came out next. Again, I’m not the biggest eggplant fan, but these were heaven. Their charred skins gave off a crunchy texture and welcome smoky flavor, while the eggplant was covered in an ideal amount of oil that enhanced their taste without making them soggy.
One of the best parts of the spread, all which came out in about 15 minutes total for a massive meal that lent itself to mixing flavors, was the spinach pie ($12). The fried feta cheese- and spinach-filled slice was pure bliss in every bite. It was a decadent vegetarian course that added new flavors to the meal.
The fried cauliflower ($12) was another filling portion, topped with tahini dressing. The meaty cruciferous vegetable quickly makes bellies full.
Vine leaves are one of my favorite Mediterranean dishes, and Hannibal’s ($13) didn’t disappoint. The large leaves stuffed with rice, tomato and parsley were again meaty and filling and packed a ton of flavors.
For dessert, there was baklava ($2.50), probably the best I’ve ever had. The portion offered a few bites and had the perfect ratio of dough-to-pistachio filling, baked in Middle Eastern honey syrup so that it melted in your mouth.
As a fan of tapas-style serving where you can try lots of small plates in one sitting, Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant is one I’d return to over and over. The spot features belly dancing for parties and on Saturday’s (call ahead to confirm times), and the beautiful atmosphere enhances the elegance of every plate.
Find more information on Hannibal Lebanese Restaurant in Surry Hills, which has another location in Glebe, here.