Shisha Bar & Grill

Recycled: Some of Shisha's old life remains.
Recycled: Some of Shisha's old life remains. Photo: Steven Siewert

61 Georges River Road Croydon Park, New South Wales 2133

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Opening hours 5.30pm-late, Sat 7am-2pm, Sun 8am-2pm
Features Private dining, Accepts bookings, Bar, Licensed, Outdoor seating
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 9705 7941

This suburban hot spot recently transformed from Shisha, the upmarket Middle Eastern restaurant Croydon Park needed, to Shisha, the trendy bar and grill it needed even more.

It's a reinvention that's come with a bit of recycling, but the hand-me-downs here have been thoughtfully repurposed instead of becoming a frugal clash of fashion's most embarrassing moments past (mums, let's take note). Old fence palings lining the wall above a dimpled leather banquette and light fittings incorporating old pipes merge as part of a cohesive look.

The odd Middle Eastern dish from Shisha's former incarnation has made it on to the new menu - an otherwise American-leaning, globally inspired assortment of share plates, salads, grilled Riverina-sourced meats, ribs and burgers. The new stuff is good - meat falls easily from the bone in a dish of slow-cooked beef ribs slathered in a sticky, smoky house-made barbecue sauce and piled on top of a mountain of hot chips - but one of the highlights is an oldie: plump tortellini-shaped dumplings filled with lamb and pine nuts, covered with warm yoghurt.

Knafeh dessert at Shisha Bar & Grill.
Knafeh dessert at Shisha Bar & Grill. Photo: Steven Siewert

While the ceviche was a little flat, sure-fire crowd pleasers include curls of fried calamari with mayo and a dried chilli-dipped lime wedge; a radish, pomegranate, rocket and pickled cauliflower salad topped with bright strips of smoked salmon; and chunky cubes of watermelon and feta garnished with oregano and fresh spearmint.

Another popular carry-over from the Shisha of old is the fragrance hanging in the air from punters smoking shisha pipes. The sweet smell is pleasant, even for a non-smoker, and the pipes ensure a big outdoor crowd regardless of how dreary a night it is.

Inside always seems crowded, too, with a celebratory mood ruling the house. It's partly because locals love having such a youthful, vibrant place in the 'hood, and partly thanks to the loaded bar and a barman primed to get more than one party started (note - in addition to the six fresh, fruity cocktails on the menu there are specials scrawled on the wall beside the bar).

Beef ribs with chips.
Beef ribs with chips. Photo: Steven Siewert

Ameer El-Issa, co-owner with brother Joey and sister Mouna Emsis, has plans for yet-more reinvention. A large back room, now used for functions, is slated to become another dining space/"old school butcher" with house-cured meats as the focal point, and the Shisha-take on knafeh - a lovely, warming dessert mixing three cheeses, semolina and pistachio sugar syrup - is destined to be the sole star of a spin-off eatery … watch this space.

DO …
also try their weekends-only brekkie menu
DON' T …
lose hope if it looks full: there's an upstairs section, too
knafeh with pistachio sugar syrup
a party smelling of steaks and fruity shisha smoke