Found on the Mediterranean Coast of modern day Lebanon, Byblos, is considered to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
Its Brisbane namesake might only be a little over 10 years old but it is one of only two restaurants that can lay claim to a similar feat at Portside Wharf on the Hamilton riverfront.
Handblown glass light fittings, tasseled lamps, rich leather, dark timber and traditional hookahs the eatery is a cool mix of old world charm and funky hipster chic.
Behind the lush fit out (fully renovated in 2014) and replica Phoenician statues, what really has kept the venue popular is a modern interpretation of traditional Lebanese cuisine and an extensive drinks list.
Byblos’ feasts have been a staple for me since it opened.
The ubiquitous Trio of Dips (Hommos, Baba Ghanouj and Labneh) is a must on arrival because it is just perfect.
Likewise for starters the Rekakat, lightly fried filo pastries filled with feta, mozzarella, onion and fresh herbs; Kebbi, hand rolled mix of lamb and beef mince with burghal, pine nuts and traditional spices; and the Falafel – the best going anywhere.
All three are classic “small dishes traditionally shared as appetizers” dishes from the menu’s Mezat section and are consistently prepared and presented to make the perfect entrée to a Lebanese feast.
For the more adventurous, there is also Escargot (sautéed in garlic butter with fresh coriander, lemon juice and chili), Kebbi Nayeh (minced lamb fillets served raw, mixed with burghal, spices and olive oil) and Salmon Kebbi Nayeh (fresh Atlantic salmon served raw mixed with burghal and traditional spices). There are all dishes my companions have given rave reviews.
The Byblos Grill proposes an extensive list mains to choose from.
The Mixed Grill that includes a choice of four skewers served with hommos, tabouleh salad and toum garlic sauce is one of my favourites.
Braised Oxtail – the poor man’s feast is served here as a melt-in-your-mouth specialty – is served here with freekah.
Their Lebanese style Grilled Barramundi is terrific but the abundance of braised silverbeet in tahini can overpower the delicate fish.
For a bit of everything a ‘platter for two’ is a good option. Hommos, tabouleh and two each of Rekkat, Fatayer, Lahim Bil Ajeen, Chicken Sambusek, Shish Tawook and Lahim Meshwi are all included.
A ‘feed me’ banquet – minimum of 2 servings – is well suited for larger parties where you can sit back and enjoy the tastes of Phoenicia without being spoilt for choice.
For drinks, start with one of the many original creations from the geniuses behind the bar. We suggest the racy Open Sesame cocktail (Four Pillars Barrel Aged Gin, Pimms, Arak, Zaartar Honey + Sesame Seed Syrup) before moving on to something from the extensive wine list.
Byblos is a very well patronized restaurant weekdays, nights and weekends.
It also attracts a Sunday session crowd with live music from 3-7pm and gets them back for a happy-hour it calls “Knockoff” 4-6pm on weekdays.
If going for the drinks, be sure to order Mezat.