If you live in Sydney haven’t heard of Knafeh, you are probably not a huge user of social media. Or television. Knafeh is currently is currently a ‘big thing’ around town. Twitter and Instagram are filled with pictures hashtagged with the name. Knafeh is currently seriously cool. I first found out about them when I was tagged in a Facebook post. Knafeh was going to be in Greenacre, a mere 10 minute drive from my house. I had no idea what it was, but I was promised that it would be delicious.
So, on a cold Saturday night, with kids and husband in tow, I went to Greenacre to find out what this Knafeh business was all about. My dear friend Ossama, a beautiful, courageous and funny individual suggested that we check it out. She also invited me to eat Lebanese food with her family. Delicious food followed by more delicious food? I was sold.
We met Ossie at the house she shares with her husband and six incredibly photogenic kids. I’m not lying about that. Six beautiful faces, beautiful smiles- it’s like walking into a living stock image. Ossie and her hubby Sal aren’t so bad either. As well as being ridiculously photogenic, they are well spoken, polite and friendly. My kids and her kids became instant BFFs.
Ossie had prepared a simple meal, which consisted of approximately five courses and was about three times more than anyone could possibly eat. Meat pizza, fresh and hot with flatbread and mince mixture on top. A spaghetti dish, made with cold pasta, and mixed with yoghurt and garlic. As strange as that sounded to me, it was actually delicious, and is also a bloody brilliant meal for little kids- my three happily consumed large bowls of it. Our meal was finished with large bowls of cherries, which Ossama had somehow found, at an exorbitant price, in the cold of Winter. I unashamedly consumed more than was probably polite, they are my favourite fruit, and these cherries were GOOD. We chatted for a while, and then bundled the kids into cars for the short drive up the road to find Knafeh.
Knafeh, aka “The Bearded Bakers” is a family company that operate their business from a repurposed shipping container. The container moves to a different location every week or so, much like a slightly less mobile food truck. It’s a mini-cafe complete with decorations, entertainment, and most importantly, DESSERT. On this night, it was set up in a little laneway just off the main road, next to a pub and and a carpark. It’s amazing even without eating the food. The interior of the container is decorated with floor to ceiling painting, funky lighting and the kind of food-packaging-as-decor that is so trendy right now. A host of men in beards take orders, prepare, cook, and serve the food, while simultaneously performing- they sing, they dance, they pose for selfies with customers while producing fresh hot knafeh with speed and precision. It’s impressive.
The popularity is impressive too. We rocked up at 8:30pm, to a queue that went down the laneway and into an alley that runs between the carpark and pub. It is truly organised chaos, friends running into old mates, people waving at acquaintances through the crowd. Occasionally the music goes up, and half of those waiting and eating start singing along. I have no idea what they were singing. Their passion and nostalgia was clear though- it was obvious to me that for many, this song reminded them of their history. If you have to wait in a really long line, this is the kind of line that you want to wait in.
After an hour of waiting, my three year old was thirsty. And he needed to pee. And he was bored. And he was hungry. So I took him around the corner for a walk, a toilet, and a bottle of water. When I returned, pizza-style boxes full of little cardboard bowls awaited. My friends looked at me with half-eaten sweets and anticipatory smiles. “Wait!” cried Ossama, “we have to take a photo of THE MOMENT!” Photo taken, I grab my spoon and dig in.
Oh……My……Deliciousness…… The top is crunchy, and covered with a sweet rosewater syrup. Below this crunch is a heavy, stringy, slightly sweet custard. Not quite custard though….. I look at my friends questioningly. “It’s cheese!” they tell me. Cheese! Of course! It’s incredibly rich and warming. It is comfort food, like pumpkin soup and apple crumble. Before I am even aware that I have done it, I’ve devoured a whole serve. Encouraged by my friends, I start on another. It’s trendy, it’s gimmicky, it’s freaking fantastic. Deserving of thousands of filtered photos with hashtags.
Ossama tells me that while it’s good, the recipe she has is better. This assertion is confirmed by everyone around me. You can make something this good better? THAT is something to look forward to!
With my one year old sound asleep, and my older two fast approaching the point of tired where grumpiness is inevitable, hubby and I agree that it is time to call it a night. I am so full that my jeans feel tight, and I can’t stop my enthusiastic chatter. Knafeh is not just a really fashionable food, it’s a unique event. Worth the queue, worth the cold, worth the shielding of my son while he relieves himself on a tree. The Bearded Bakers are definitely onto something.