Aalia restaurant to bring Middle Eastern flavours to MLC makeover

Ibby Moubadder at Cuckoo Callay in Surry Hills.
Ibby Moubadder at Cuckoo Callay in Surry Hills. Photo: Janie Barrett

With the MLC makeover one of the big-ticket Sydney CBD food developments for 2021, word on the incoming operators has been tight-lipped.

But Good Food can reveal it will feature a Middle Eastern co-production from two rising stars of the Sydney food scene, as well as a former chef from the Saint Peter kitchen.

Ibby Moubadder, the owner of the Lebanese Nour restaurant in Surry Hills (he's also opened a string of venues, including chook destination Henrietta and Lilymu in Parramatta) is teaming with George Nahas, who operates a number of Italian restaurants in the city at MLC.

George Nahas at another of his Sydney venues, Sal.
George Nahas at another of his Sydney venues, Sal. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

"I grew up in a flat in Annandale bordering Leichhardt, with my Italian neighbours always having me eat Italian food with them, then Mums' Lebanese food," Nahas explains.

When he opens Aalia restaurant at MLC next year with Moubadder, Nahas will return professionally to his other food, love. "Ibby's family is from Beirut, mine are from Kousba, but the food will be broader than Lebanese," Nahas says.

Chef Paul Farag (ex Saint Peter) has an Egyptian background, so expect the unexpected. Moubadder explains they've been digging deep into Middle Eastern food history: "We found a recipe for a fermented soy bean that [predates] Asian soy sauce. And there's an Egyptian recipe for a dried fish you shave on food, similar to bottarga."

Matt Darwon will design the 150-seat Aalia, which overlooks Martin Place. The hot word on city eat streets is it'll be joined at MLC by a multi-level steakhouse from the group behind Botswana Butchery in Queenstown in New Zealand.