Every suburb has a secret food spot that is only known to a select few – until now. Suburban Secrets uncovers some of the foodie delights hiding in the ‘burbs.
There’s nothing more heartwarming than a meal cooked by one’s mother, but how about one cooked by someone else’s? If you’re hankering for a delicious mum-cooked-meal, look no further than Sumac Cafe on Goodwood Road. Run by two determined and delightful sisters, Zaubayde Kowaider and Sophie Mahfoud, Sumac is the perfect place to sit and enjoy satisfying authentic Lebanese. The menu contains a wide range of traditional foods suitable for a quick snack, sharing plates or full-blown dinners. The story of Sumac is one of opening cultural doors and a ffection. Kowaider says their taking over the business from its previous owner was born from a desire to showcase what Lebanese culture had to o ffer. “We’ve cooked all our lives, for our families and children, so we thought, why not share it with the world?” Kowaider says. For the sisters, quality is paramount in their food. As their recipes come from their own family, the food is prepared with the same love it would be if prepared for their children. “We do everything ourselves. We’ve tried hiring staff to come in and cook, but we found they weren’t able to do it in the same way as us,” Kowaider says. All of the expected staples are available at Sumac, including falafel, kibbe, shashliks, fattoush and tabouli. Everything’s homemade and it’s all dangerously moreish. With a charcoal grill sitting behind the counter, lamb, chicken and beef are cooked fresh for all to see and the all-important accompanying dips like baba ganoush and hummus are made from scratch by family. “Even with the baba ganoush, we do the eggplant over the charcoal. You can taste a bit of that smokiness in it.” Hero plates for this writer include the mansaf, a delectably soft chicken dish sitting on a bed of tasty spiced rice with sultanas and pine nuts, and the kibbe, a sort of Middle-Eastern dumpling with spiced meat wrapped in a dough shell. For dedicated lovers of Lebanese food, there are options at Sumac not on the menu. With the extensive knowledge and experience of Kowaider and Mahfoud, dishes that require more time to be cooked can be made on request with prior noti fication. And, in keeping with the sisters’ dedication to great customer service, lucky groups might be treated to the odd serving of complementary Lebanese co ffee or cinnamon tea. “When you have a large group in and they’re spending so much money on all this food, what does it cost us to give them some traditional tea or co ffee?” Kowaider asks. Having run the business for 15 months, the sisters have seen their restaurant grow busier as time goes on. “Any business you start needs patience. We were twiddling our thumbs for the first six months,” Kowaider says. Outside of the delicious food, word of mouth and engaging with the local community have been crucial to Sumac’s success. “Everyone’s adapted to us. We know people by name and people just pop their heads in to say ‘Hi’ when they go by. We’re just happy to have opened the community’s eyes to real Lebanese food.” On that subject of cultural exchange, Kowaider says she is happy to be able to showcase another side to Middle Eastern food and culture than what is presented through the media. Mahfoud interjects to say “We’re nothing like The Habibs!” Likewise, in contrast to a prevailing image of female oppression in Middle Eastern cultures, the sisters are proud to run the restaurant themselves. “We have so many people who come in asking about our hijabs and they love learning about it. Women come in and see us running the place and they’re like, ‘Girl power!’” Sumac Cafe 582 Goodwood Road, Colonel Light Gardens 8177 1458 facebook.com/sumaccafe