Merrylands Road is a real melting pot, offering a stunning variety of oft overlooked cuisines, including Syrian, Ethiopian, Afghan, Persian, West African and more.
Everything on this south western Sydney suburb's main eat street is an easy walk from the train station. Merrylands is about a 40 minute train trip from the city, or a 35 minutes' drive. There's ample parking in the Stocklands shopping centre or on the street.
Al Shami serves up a traditional Middle Eastern breakfast of foul madammas (pronounced fool), a filling bowl of mashed fava beans, served with olive oil, herbs, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, chilli and lashings of fresh Lebanese bread and pickles.
At Mina 1 Bakery's manoushes – Lebanese bread sprinkled with za'atar – are a great brekkie option, eaten either on their own or filled with vegetables, yoghurt or cheese. Wash it down with ayran, a deliciously salty yoghurt drink similar to lassi. The popular lahme bajne Tripoli-style, a rich filo pastry filled with lamb mince, pine nuts and tomatoes, is worth trying too.
If you're feeling daring, head to Walli Asr Restaurant at the end of Merrylands Arcade and try the kaleh pache, a breakfast favourite of slow-boiled pulled sheep's head and feet, served with rich broth and fresh Afghan naan.
Al Shami Syrian Restaurant, 240 Merrylands Road, 8677 1671
Mina 1 Bakery Pizza & Café, 174 Merrylands Road, 9760 1919
Walli Asr Restaurant, Shop 12, Merrylands Arcade, 205 Merrylands Road, 9897 7497
For a twist on the lunchtime sanger, head to Aria Persian Fast Food for traditional Persian sandwiches. Served with salad, mayo and pickles on crusty sesame-studded baguettes, varieties include Persian-style falafel, chicken livers in tomato and onion gravy and bandari, grilled Persian sausage.
Kebab Al-Hojat's luscious, juicy and smoky mixed kebabs are served with freshly made to order Afghan bread, salad, raita and chilli sauce – more than enough to share between two. If you sit with your back to the street, you'd swear you were in Kabul.
For an African twist on fish 'n' chips, try El-Shaddai African Cuisine for fried tilapia (a variety of fish) with fried plantains and cassava leaves stuffed with rice and a choice of chicken, fish or beef. There's also a wide choice of West African dishes, including kan kan kan, marinated barbecued lamb served with tomato-ey jollof rice, cous cous or fu fu, a traditional cassava-based side.
Aria Persian Fast Food, 258 Merrylands Road, 8677 9508
El-Shaddai African Cuisine, 130 Merrylands Road, 0452 422 482
Kebab Al-Hojat, 2/254 Pitt Street, 8677 9423
The colourful and welcoming Aaboll Cafe's offers a great introduction to Ethiopian cuisine, by way of the Aaboll Combo. It features dishes like doro wot (a rich chicken stew simmered in herb butter, chilli and paprika, served with hard boiled eggs), lamb tibs (diced lamb paprikash), and the dhal-like misir wot, all mopped up with injera bread, a sour pancake similar to a dosa. There are plenty of veggie options too, plus great Ethiopian coffee.
For traditional regional Afghan pulaws or plovs, head to Kabul House or Mazar. They're similar to Indian biryanis, featuring slow-cooked lamb under a mountain of saffron rice, sultanas, and carrots and served with side dishes. Other favourites include ashpaz, a traditional chicken noodle soup; or the famous mantu, dumplings filled with lamb mince, onion and cumin, topped with dhal, yoghurt and mint. Mazar offers vegetarian choices, such as burani badjan, seared eggplant, capsicum, tomato and garlic topped with yoghurt and fresh herbs, or burani kadu, pumpkin sauteed with onion, garlic and turmeric, topped with yoghurt and fresh herbs.
Al Shami is worth a visit for dinner too. The daily main meal special is a bargain: lentil soup, Jordanian mansaf (a slow-cooked leg of spiced and sauced lamb on saffron rice), a further choice of daily main (perhaps shish barak, tortellini-style dumplings poached in a rich yoghurt sauce), unlimited bread, garlic dip and pickles for $15. The fried chicken has to be a contender for Sydney's best: the crisp, crunch skin is like crackling, with smoky hints of cinnamon and baharat, and tender, juicy meat.
Aaboll Ethiopian Cafe, 140 Merrylands Road
Kabul House, 186A Merrylands Road, 9682 4144
Mazar, 178 Merrylands Road, 8677 8787
Al Shami Syrian Restaurant, 240 Merrylands Road, 8677 1671
There's a myriad of delights at La Gallette patisserie, offering an incredible range of French and Lebanese pastries and sweets – from pistachio, cashew and hazelnut baklava to date and pistachio maamoul, and the more intriguing chaaybiet, faysalieh or karabeesh (rosewater natef meringue on a crunchy, biscuity pistachio base). Also offering Lebanese treats is Heart to Heart. It's open until midnight.
La Galette Patisserie, 169 Merrylands Road, 9637 4441
Heart to Heart Patisserie and Cafe, 38-40 McFarlane Street, 9897 9955
Join the queue at Green Wheat Afghan Bakery, just off Merrylands Road on Miller Street. Delicious hot wholemeal Afghan bread, about a metre long, fluffy and sprinkled with caraway seeds and smoky char marks, are pulled fresh from the huge tandoor ovens, wrapped in paper and sold. It's the perfect companion for the fresh dips from the vibrant Hamze Bros Fruit Market.
There's an abundance of colourful, interesting and cheap grocery, spice, fruit and specialty shops along Merrylands Road. Hupp Fatt Butchery's retail outlet sells meat at wholesale prices. For nuts, dried fruit and coffee, visit Abla Coffee and Nuts. And to stock up the spice rack, try Merrylands Spice and Herb Centre. It sells a variety of groceries from around the world too.
Also worth an explore are Balkh Supermarket for Afghan delicacies; Saqadat Supermarket for Indian and Middle Eastern groceries; and Hang Le Asian Food Market with its pan-Asian favourites. The newly opened Pameer Market is enormous, boasting its own halal butcher and deli, and catering-size stocks of Subcontinental, Middle Eastern and Central Asian staples.
Abla Coffee and Nuts, 184 Merrylands Road, 9897 3458
Balkh Afghan Supermarket, 6/258-260 Merrylands Road (on Addlestone Road)
Green Wheat Afghan Bakery, 1/172 Merrylands Road (on Miller St), 8677 5249
Hamze Bros Fruit Market, 179 Merrylands Road, 9760 1886
Hang Le Asian Food Market, 137 Merrylands Road, 9682 5486
Hupp Fatt Butchery, 206 Merrylands Road, 9637 2888
Merrylands Spice and Herb Centre, 8/258 Merrylands Road (on Addlestone Road), 9897 1345
Pameer Market, 225 Merrylands Road, 9760 1519
Saqadat Supermarket, 6/196 Merrylands Road, 8677 7927