Thursday, July 3, 2008

Meet: The E Lounge, Glebe, and my new camera, which I can't really operate.

You've probably heard someone say that studying philosophy is useless. An abstract, indulgent waste of dreamy, fractured time. Time which doesn't even really exist. Don't believe them. Studying philosophy can lead to deep fulfillment and harmony, and here's how:

Dad and I decided to do some extra Philosophy courses at Sydney Uni a few years ago, existentialism or something I think. As fate would have it, we would always arrive a little early in Glebe, do the token drop in at church (Glebebooks), and then have an hour or so to kill, and kill it we did.

It was in this little pocket of prephilosophy time that we discovered Bill Denn, his wonderful restaurant, and, without any shadow of a doubt, The-Absolutely-Best-Zaatar-You-Will-Ever-Eat-in-Your-Whole-Entire-Life, relatively speaking, of course. Someone once said that if you ask people to choose between freedom, ideas and sandwiches, they will choose guy.

In 2 weeks or so, we were coming down for the Zaatar and not even bothering to stick around for the Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a pretty cool guy, I think he'd forgive us. But you'll never forgive yourself if you don't try this place out.
That's Bill. Easy going, smiling, a perfectionist, visionary Pizza Person from Melbourne, now living in Sydney. He's a hard guy not to like. The way he casually and calmly floats between the pizza oven and mingling with clients and friends establishes a comfortable atmosphere, it's more like popping over to a friends place for a bite than eating out.

Bill opened up in The E Lounge over 5 years ago, when he clued into the fact that the woodfire method of cooking was the future of the art. But this is so much more than your average woodfired pizza place. Bill's food carries an endorsement from the Coeliac Society. Yes, all of his pizzas can be made with delicious gluten free bases. Even his risottos, pasta sauces and dressings are all gluten, butter and alcohol free. This is not gimmicky, tasteless gluten free, it's all hand crafted, quality driven, deliciousness. They make their own gluten free vegetable stock from scratch, all their chicken and meat is halal, and only cold pressed extra virgin olive oil is used in their cooking. What's more, and I absolutely love this, NO microwave cooking is used in the preparation of food. I've spoken a little bit about how microwaves denature the properties available in good food, and also flatten the taste of a lively dish. Its a beautiful menu of calzones, pizzas, pastas, risottos and salads, with Vegans and Vegos spoilt for choice, and their meat guzzling friends not missing out either. All of these little idiosyncracies make this one of the healthiest pizza experiences that Sydney, and probably even Australia, has to offer. But enough talk about all this, you want to hear about this sultrly zaatar, don't you.

Zaatar is traditionally a Middle Eastern breakfast food, but everyone appears heedless of this tradition and eats it at any time of the day. It's a beautiful, surprisingly sustaining, snack food. It consists of dried Herbs in the form oregano, thyme, sesame seeds and marjoram, sometimes also sumac. Zaatra is a very subtle food, different climates produce wonderful nuances in taste. Bill uses a Jordanian blend purchased from Abu Salim, the Greenacre grocer. This blend has more sesame seeds, the texture is gorgeous. Most of you who have tried Zaatar from a Lebanese baker will know it as a delicious treat, served on soft, gluggy bread, with a certain moistness to it, and herein is Bill's genius.

Most Zaatar is made in the moist heat of convention ovens which fire at 280 to 320 degrees, not only producing a moist and soft/doughy end product, but taking longer to cook. Bill's woodfire oven is a 550 degree blowing bad boy that cooks zaatar (and pizza) in one minute flat in a dry heat, the result: a golden crispiness/chewiness to the base that could not be a better backdrop for the decadently dark, olive oil laden, zaatar paste to sink into and to drip over. The crispiness is wonderful in itself, but Bill invites you to play with both texture and tartness by bestowing upon you two little pots of precious sweetness: one containing an oily zaatar paste, to dip the already zaatar dripping pizza finger into, and one containing a fluffy blend of spunky sumac, for those who like the lemonyness of it. And all this can be gluten free. The dough itself is a piccaso of proofing, it has usually risen beautifully by 7pm, so Bill considers this the ideal time to drop in for one of his pizzas.

Dad refuses to share his Zaatar. His love for it is sincere. Once, we were having a spur of the moment 3 course lunch with good red wine at a top Sydney restaurant on a beautifully sunny day. We had been in the city and were tossing around some ideas for where to eat when we decided to splash out and do it above the clouds at a favourite place. Halfway through the lunch I remembered The E Lounge down the road in Glebe and told Dad we could've gone there, he looked at me absolutely dismayed at the missed opportunity, that's how powerful this stuff is, he prefers it over anything. Simple, equisite, and at $5.50 for the small serve, wonderfully cheap.

The rest of the menu looks equally dazzling, but I have rarely ever tried it, im loyal to my first love. If you still have room, the Apple or Banana Calzones with Marscapone or chocolate hazelnut ganache and ice cream will gladly take it away from you. Just like the menu says, this is "friendly, helpful food served by delicious people". BYO is upstairs only, with a good bottle store next door. Bill does a busy take away, home delivery trade as well, for those who want their food to come to them. They are cruelly closed on Mondays.

Of interesting note is a great water on offer for the health and environmentally conscious: Brazilian Springs water has a ph of 7.9, and is highly alkilising for the body (a good thing), it also saves the rainforests somehow. Bill explained how, but my attention span is inversely related to the goodness of a meal, poor rainforests.

We were celebrating Erin's wonderful new job (congratulations!), and the Zaatar was a great way to do it. Joy and Jubilation, did however, turn to pleasant drowsiness after she had finished the dish: "Can I roll home now, my belly is round and full".

If you do get out to Glebe for this experience, go and introduce yourself to Bill, he's great to have a bit of a chat with and will be happy to explain the process and the passion behind what they do, and do so, so well.

The E Lounge
Address: 92 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe
Ph: 9518 6002


e said...

its the day after and I have a Zaatar hang over ... which means that all I want is more more more!

Its so good you have to wonder what substances of addiction there might be in it ...

Can't wait to make my own (substandard) Zaatar between glebe visits! I want to try some vegan food there too.

amanda said...

sounds good, we should get dana and aimee in on it with the boys x.

Cakebrain said...

Though I've heard from colleagues about Zaatar and how wonderful it is, I have yet to eat any. Now I'm wondering where I can get me some in Vancouver?

amanda said...

hey cakebrain! is it legal to send you some? ive got tons of the dry herbs, theyre amazing and cheap, you just add olive oil to make the paste.