REVIEW: El Jannah

Originally published by Two Thousand in 2014

When my now father-in-law suggested to my now-wife and I that we move to an apartment that he owned in Granville, we laughed it off. Thanks for the offer, John, but Granville? Way too far away. We’ll stick to paying $600 a week for an apartment we hate in Paddington, surrounded by nothing but shit cafes and dogs we can’t own because our head of strata is about 200 years old.

John brought up his offer a few times in the following weeks. In every conversation he’d tried to sell us on Granville as a suburb. His main argument was El Jannah, an incredible charcoal chicken spot near the station. It was a successful motivator, but it wasn’t the chicken that convinced us to move. It was their garlic sauce.

You could smell the smoke from El Jannah from the balcony of our new place. We were excited to make it our local – but so were our families and close friends, who visited us throughout the first fortnight we were there, insisting they bring us El Jannah for lunch. After less than a month of living in Granville, we never wanted to eat ‘the reason we moved there’ again.

We broke that promise to ourselves a good hundred or so times in the almost three years we’ve called Granville home. Charred pieces of El Jannah chicken made appearances at picnics and parties that we couldn’t be bothered to cook for. I regularly walked home from the station with a chicken roll in my hand and garlic on my breath. We made our way through the various skewers on the menu, which take about ten times longer to serve than the chicken does.

We’re moving out of our Granville apartment tomorrow so we went for one last big feed at El Jannah while we still lived around the corner. It’s the best way to eat there, get a crew, sit outside and order big. We got a whole chicken, which comes with Lebanese bread, pickles and garlic sauce, plus a side order of hommous, babaganouj and tabouli. And some chips and falafel. We ordered big.

You tear a piece of bread, smear it with hommous (which I think is the best hommous you can get in Sydney, it’s so thick and rich with tahini), then add an additional extra large smear of the garlic sauce, an addictive creamy paste that’s made from just garlic and olive oil (if you have leftover garlic sauce do not take it home – you will eat it with a spoon and have nightmares for a week). Next you rip into a piece of chicken (the thigh is always best), placing pieces of charred, smoky skin alongside the juicy meat. Top the meat with a couple of pickles, both green and pink. The pink ones are white turnip spears, turned pink by adding a piece of beetroot to the pickling jar. Sneak in a few hot chips, covered in chicken salt, next to the pickles because you’re an adult who can make their own decisions. Spoon some tabouli over the top, roll it up and eat it, spilling half the roll over your pants. Try your hardest to save some room for something sweet from Abla’s up the road.

El Jannah is a Granville institution, one that is slowly branching out and opening stores in Punchbowl and Blacktown. There are other charcoal chicken stores in Granville but I refuse to go to them (unless the line is REALLY long). I’ll miss being five minutes walk from a perfect chicken roll, waking up and smelling the glorious charcoal smoke from my open window, using everything in my power not to smear the half finished tubs of garlic sauce in my fridge on every carbohydrate in the house. No matter how far away I live from Granville, it’ll only take having severe garlic breath to remind me of being neighbours with my old mate El Jannah.

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