Did you know that there’s a concentration of Persian restaurants, cafés and grocery stores in one Sydney Street? You’ll find Persian restaurants in many suburbs of Sydney but in Ryde, thanks to Taste Food Tours, I discovered “Little Persia”.
Discovering “Little Persia” in Ryde
One Ramadan evening last year, I joined a Taste of Iran Tour in Ryde. In the space of only a few hundred metres, we tasted Persian cuisine, discovered three Persian restaurants, Persian cafés and Persian grocery stores.
Today I revisited Ryde to explore the area at a slower pace. Let me take you there.
For a change I drive. It’s quicker and parking isn’t a problem.
Starting in Blaxland Road
Compared to the traffic jam I experienced last year, the streets are relatively quiet. I plan to start with an early lunch at the Persian Sandwich shop and after visiting a family restaurant on Blaxland Road will make my way to Church Street.
Street Art Sculptures
On the corner of Church Street, a metal sculpture hangs from a tall pole. The design features grapes and the name Gregory Blaxland. One of the explorers to first cross the Blue Mountains, Blaxland also won silver and gold medals for his wine made from grapes grown on land in Ryde. More similar street sculptures feature other pioneers from the local area.
Some Places have yet to Open
Aloonak Sandwich café is closed. That’s a pity as I was looking forward to one of their traditional Persian sandwiches.
It’s also too early for Sharood, a family restaurant offering authentic Persian cuisine. As I turn to leave, a man dressed in black runs across the road, keys in hand. Ali has arrived to open up. The restaurant opens at 12 but he lets me inside to take a couple of photos.
Persian Restaurants in Ryde
Ali looks tired and admits that the rain and covid have affected his business. The shisha café he was hoping to open has been stalled because his “builder cheated him”. We chat about Iran (I went there a few years ago) and Ali asks if we visited the mountain outside Kashan where “the water comes out the top”. He’s surprised that I didn’t know about it.
Nikan, is a much larger and more flashy restaurant which also opens later. Chairs with elaborate gold painted backrests and red cushioned seats line long tables set for large gatherings. Like the other restaurants, the meals here are halal.
The Korean Fried Chicken restaurant seems out of place in the row of Persian shops in Church Street.
A Persian Gift Shop
A young man sits at his computer at the back of Lux Gallery. The long narrow shop had only just opened when I visited last year. The shelves are lined with Persian homewares, shisha pipes and crafted wooden backgammon sets. Backgammon originated in Persia.
Another Ali (he says I’ll meet “a lot of Ali’s), the young man tells me the gallery has been busy during Nowruz, the Persian New Year which was celebrated on 21st March this year. He points to a set of cups explaining vaguely that they are very popular during Nowruz, celebrated on the “spring equinox”.
Pointing to the various shisha pipes he points out which are Russian, which are Egyptian and Syrian design and those from Persia.
Behind a green security gate, greenery lines a brick pathway leading to the wooden front door of Farsi Restaurant. It too will open later as will the Soltan Shisha café next door.
Haunting Persian music accompanies me as I peruse the shelves of Bahar Persian Food and Art store. A couple in the next aisle discuss a purchase in lilting Persian. I find a falafel mould, rows of saffron sugar sticks, carrot jam and rose petal preserve.
Paying for my purchases I notice what looks like a shrine with a shiny red apple, coins and an egg amongst other things on a small tray laid with a white cloth. Chatting to the assistant, I forget to ask about the significance of the tray.
The Persepolis Butcher sells halal meat. The butcher tells me that the “marinating is Persian”. Strings of sausages covered in different foil-like wrapping fill the back display counter. They look a little like frankfurters.
A large fish tank filled with tens of little gold fish swimming back and forth greets me at the entrance to PaRYDEise Supermarket and Butchery. I notice bowls in South African colours, Afghani products and glass tea sets for Persian tea. I’m looking for gaz, the soft individually wrapped nougat sweet traditionally from Isfahan. Not recognising any of the brands on the shelf, I leave empty handed.
Lunch at Sharood
Returning to Sharood for lunch. I choose the Koresh qeymeh badenjan (a lamb, lentil and eggplant stew) with doogh and Persian tea.
The doogh, a fermented yoghurt, arrives first. Served in an old battered bronze mug, the handle is cold. A sprinkling of dried herbs float on the surface. More watery than expected, it’s slightly sour but refreshing. A large plate of white rice topped with yellow rice comes next, served on an etched metal plate. The stew is pleasant enough but a little bland for my taste.
While eating, I read up about Nowruz which dates back to a Zoroastrian feast day. It is customary for each home to have a Haft sin (pronounced seen) table displaying seven (Haft in Persian) items whose names begin with the letter sin in the Persian alphabet.
I finish my meal with dates and a glass of Persian tea sweetened with a stick of saffron sugar candy. The small black dates are unexpectedly soft and delicious.
When I go to pay, I notice a table in the corner. On a blue and white decorated table cloth, are a number of bowls, each filled with something different. The penny drops and snippets of what I was told and saw earlier all come together. The set of ‘cups’ at Lux Gallery, the tray with apple and coins at Behar Persian Food and Art and my reading about Nowruz.
The table is a Haft Sin table. Ali points to each of the dishes, explaining that there should be seven, but his wife has taken one (samanu – a wheat germ pudding symbolising power and strength) home. The others are sabzeh (sprouts growing in a vase symbolising rebirth and growth), senjed (a wild olive symbolising love), serkeh (vinegar for patience), seeb (an apple for beauty), seer (garlic symbolising health and medicine) and somaq (sumac symbolising sunrise).
There’s also a painted ceramic egg (fertility), a mirror (self-reflection) and coins (wealth and prosperity). And the goldfish I saw in the supermarkets? They too are also for Nowruz and symbolise life.
I end my discovery of Persia in Sydney at Asal Sweet Patisserie where I take my time choosing biscuits and cookies to take home. It works out cheaper, so I’ve learnt, to buy a 500g box rather than a few individual pieces.
An Interesting Morning discovering Persia in Ryde
It took me a year to return to Ryde to explore this Persian precinct for myself. I’ve discovered Persian cuisine and some Nowruz customs. It won’t be a year before I’m back.
- Church Street is about a half hour walk from Meadowbank Train Station
- Car Parks in Church Street and Argyle Avenue (4P). Also street parking (check time limits)
- For public transport check transport info here
- List of shops:
- Sharood Restaurant 120 Blaxland Road
- Aloonak Sandwich Café: 103 Blaxland Road
- Asal Sweet Patisserie and Café: 1/97 Blaxland Road
- Nikan Restaurant: 100 Blaxland Road
- Lux Gallery: 20 Church Street
- Farsi Restaurant 20A Church Street
- PaRYDEise Supermarket and Butcher: 22 Church Street
- Soltan Shisha Lounge: 24 Church Street
- Persepolis Butcher: 32A Church Street
- Behar Persian Food and Art: 32B Church Street
- Read more about the Street Art Sculptures in the Ryde Heritage Walking trail (Stop number 5) here