Babylon Rooftop is an enormous 800 seater restaurant on the seventh rooftop floor of Westfields Sydney shopping centre. Here chef Arman Uz creates a modern take on dishes inspired by his Turkish Leventine background. These dishes range from cabbage kebabs where squares of cabbage are threaded onto a metal skewer and roasted to an enormous shoulder of buttery soft lamb.
Ivy, Mr NQN and I are searching. We've driven into the Westfield car park and followed all the signs. "Where's the valet?" I say looking around. After 10 minutes searching the grungy car park loading dock, asking people, calling the restaurant to let them know we'll be late, we realise that we've made a wrong turn.
Exhausted with feet sore from vertiginous high heels, we finally find the valet and make our way up the elevator. "Oh my god that was an unexpected drama. I need carbs," I say.
There are two restaurants that share the space on this floor. Babylon Rooftop takes up an enormous 2000 metres. There is an indoor and outdoor section (the latter warmed up with heaters and I can imagine will be very popular in summer) as well as many private dining spaces. There are curtained off cosy booths as well as a pink hued room with baby pink velvet chairs. For those entering from street level, there's an express elevator that goes all the way up to the top from Pitt Street.
The open kitchen features specialty equipment. Chef Arman explains, "Any commercial kitchen in that part of the world has a wood fire and charcoal mangal. Most dishes are cooked over char including vegetables."
With the 3 metre mangal with 2 rotisseries attached, meats are a big feature rather than the seafood that Arman was known for at Flanagan's and Jaak's. "Staying true to an original Middle Eastern diet, I have more red meat dishes on this menu compared to what I have done in my past jobs. Seafood is not always in season over there and not always affordable," explains Arman.
The bar menu features more snacky items like a variety of pide and gozleme. Both menus incorporates many elements and dishes from the Levant from Greece to Egypt. Even the kitchen team consists of chefs from the region.
Left to right: Anatolian Tonic $10, Smoke and Baklava $22, Hopa City Soda $10
We take a seat and order some drinks. It's the Smoke and Baklava for me, a strong cocktail made with Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, baklava caramel and lime. It's intense and almost peaty in flavour and the baklava connection isn't overly strong. Mr NQN has a sweet Hopa City Soda with kiwi, mint & cucumber cordial with apple juice and Ivy has an Anatolian Tonic with hibiscus and pomegranate tonic.
House made bread, Za'atar butter $3pp
We order some house made Turkish pide that comes out with a cute little za'atar dusted butter. We ask for the bread to be warmed as it is so much better that way.
Smoked eggplant salad, wood fired capsicum, tomato, garlic, parsley $20
The warmed bread works perfectly with the cold salad of creamy, smoked eggplant, wood fired capsicum, tomato and pomegranate with flavours of garlic and parsley.
Rock oysters, tarama, squid ink cracker $22
The rock oysters are not only pretty, but delicious. These are served out of the shell with crunchy squid ink tapioca crackers and creamy, dreamy tarama. Cucumber ribbons, dill and edible flowers decorate as well as enhance the flavour of the oysters and tarama.
Okra, tomato, roasted garlic, Persian feta $19
This was a dish that we ordered because I know how much a Southerner like Ivy loves okra. And oddly, this is one of my favourites of the night although I know okra polarises people. It's simple but perfectly seasoned okra pieces with tomato, roasted garlic and the creamy intensity of Persian feta crumbled on top like snow.
Wood fired cabbage kebab, coriander, lime, aleppo, chilli, harissa, labna $20
One dish that was recommended strongly to us is the wood fired cabbage kebab. It's made with many layers of cabbage squares threaded onto a skewer and roasted in the wood fired oven. There's a coriander salad on top and it sits on a bed of aleppo chilli, harissa and labna for creaminess. It's has a good robust flavour and the serving is substantial and it's the sort of dish you would probably want to share.
Free range duck pie, toasted almond & pistachio, currants, cinnamon $44
Then out comes everyone's favourite main. It's a version of a Moroccan B'stilla pie. Inside the filo pastry is a generous portion of soft, shredded, free range duck leg meat with fresh herbs. It's all wrapped up and then topped with toasted almonds and icing sugar. Although it sounds like it might be too sweet or jarring, the icing sugar adds just a touch of sweetness and the wonderfully soft duck and the buttery pastry are utterly moreish.
Slow cooked lamb shoulder, yoghurt, mint, coriander, zhug herb sauce $72
Our waiter strongly recommended the lamb shoulder. It is an enormous, slow cooked lamb shoulder cooked in the wood fired oven overnight. It's a modern take on Kuzu Tandir which you can find in Esnaf Lokantasi (tradesmen restaurants) in Turkey, sold by the kilo. The lamb slices like butter. It's served with a side of yogurt and a cucumber and herb salad with zhug herb sauce which does a terrific job of lightening up the unctuous meat. Arman explains the importance of lamb, "In history, lamb has been main red meat in Middle Eastern Cuisine. There aren't many beef dishes either, because they can't afford to kill beef. They only use them in diary products like yoghurt and cheese."
Wood fired broccolini, muhammara spread, walnuts, pomegranate molasses $18
For a side we also had the broccolini made sweeter by wood firing. It's served with a muhammara spread made with walnuts and capsicum.
Kazandibi, burnt milk pudding, cinnamon, sour cherry sorbet $16
It's dessert time and I'm happy to see kazandibi, the stretchy burnt milk dessert topped with cinnamon. Here it is a more upmarket version with paper thin cinnamon and sour cherry crackers, on a sour cherry sorbet. This is Ivy's first time trying kazandibi and she's a fan especially with it paired with the sour cherry sorbet.
Tahini chocolate, date, caramel sponge, Turkish coffee ice cream $17
However we were all a bit more smitten with the chocolate dessert. With a tahini chocolate mousse (light in tahini), date slices, caramel sponge and a quenelle of Turkish coffee ice cream and crunch from a sesame seed praline.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you prefer to eat in the main dining room or in a tucked away booth or private room? Which dish did you like the look of? And have you ever asked for your bread to be warmed?
This meal was independently paid for.
Level 7 Rooftop, Westfield Pitt Street Mall, 188 Pitt Street, CBD, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9023 9990
Open 7 days 10am-12am