Dining on the rooftop of a Westfield may not be the most glamourous proposal – yet Babylon manages to transport you far away instantly and with such ease that you almost forget you’re dining above a mall. Hop on to the express escalator, then up again, and you’ll be greeted by one of the better looking rooftop bars we’ve come across in this city. Even on a cool night, the open-air digs feel summer-ready, and we predict this will be a popular happy hour haunt in warmer months.
Babylon is huge. Beyond the small balcony bar, you’ll find the main bar, several private dining rooms, a bustling half-open kitchen and the restaurant itself sprawled out across 1,200 square metres (or four tennis courts) of space. That’s not a guarantee there will always be space for you – it’s a book-ahead sort of place – but the waiting game could be far worse than an al fresco seat with a spiced potato gozleme and a mezcal and baklava caramel cocktail to go with it.
Back inside, it’s all dusty pink and burnt orange velvet, travertine archways, lots of marble, blushy and luxe gold finishes. Despite the vastness of it all and the opulent touches, the dining room manages to feel intimate. Head chef Arman Uz (formerly of Efendy in Balmain) does a solid job of jazzing up snacks inspired by the culinary traditions of Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. Given the confluence of cultures on the carte, you might assume it’d be easy to get a little lost in the menu, but they’ve given it some thought. It’s neatly divided into sections like flora, fauna and ocean, and capable floor staff know it inside out, guiding you through the process, managing expectations and coursing it out at a proper pace.
They tell us the lamb neck is served like a soup, which makes us second guess things, but this neck is a knockout. Shreds of tender lamb are the main event, but it’s the supporting players that intensify the flavours and textures of the dish. Small, soft fingertip-sized dumplings known as manti and crunchy fried chickpeas hang ten in a béchamel-like yoghurt sauce, laced with melted chilli-infused ghee. A bit going on, but a doozy. So, too, is duck pie that plays like a savoury baklava, with layers of moreish flay pastry, juicy meat and a crumble of green pistachio nuts. A very light dusting of cinnamon sugar on top brings out a delicate sweetness in the meat. It’s a main that manages to play for both the salty and sweet teams, that’s unapologetically savoury.
Vegetarians get well looked after here, too. The charred edges of buttery cabbage on a skewer sweep up little hits of Aleppo pepper-spiked labne, like a living lesson in Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. The same goes for a spice-burnished, wood-fired cauliflower, replete with lemon, tahini and parsley.
This cross-section of the CBD isn’t always the first place you associate with culinary excitement, yet Babylon serves up a fair bit of it, on a dazzling stage, no less – and that is worth cheering for, above a Westfield or not.