For a number of years now Gosford has been home to one of the Coast’s most popular and exotic restaurants. Suitably named after Byblós, the beautiful resort town on Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast, this restaurant and bar serves up delicious Lebanese food and quality drinks within the green oasis of Gosford’s Kibble Park.
The day we visited Byblós Restaurant & Bar was a soft, drizzly day and the outlook across Kibble Park was beautiful. The park has had a major overhaul in the last few years and is now a green area of lawn and mature trees, populated by families and corporate lunchers drawn by the increasing number of quality businesses opening up around the park.
Byblós is the brainchild of James Nouri, a second generation Gosford restauranteur, and is the combination of two passions —Gosford and Lebanese cuisine. James comes from a background of hospitality with his immediate and extended family running successful Italian and Mediterranean restaurants on the Coast for many years. After involvement in his family’s Gosford-based Italian restaurant James opened Central Espresso Cafe ten years ago. With all this experience gained at a young age, James had the dream of drawing on his family’s heritage and bringing Lebanese cuisine to the Central Coast restaurant scene. What’s more, he wanted to do it in his beloved Gosford.
It was quite a gamble but one that seems to have paid off. The right venue became available and James and cousin Michael set about bringing the Byblós concept to life. The spacious premises, with a large covered timber deck overlooking the picturesque stream in Kibble Park, is definitely part of the appeal but with the stunning fitout the restaurant would be a popular destination anywhere. Add a delicious menu based on quality, fresh ingredients and a world-class bar and you can see why Byblós has attracted an enthusiastic following.
The menu has a firm basis in the family recipes that James and Michael have grown up with. Lebanese food is very much about fresh ingredients and fresh flavours, especially those of herbs and spices, garlic, lemon and olive oil. The preparation of food, such as the chopping, mincing and seasoning, becomes more important than the cooking methods, with vegetables often raw and much of the meat chargrilled. Food is often piled on the table and shared, mezze style, making it a perfect cuisine for get-togethers.
Lebanon has had many culinary influences over the years, including the Ottoman Turks (who ruled the country for hundreds of years) the French and other Mediterranean neighbours. Savoury dishes are essentially Arabic in style, but incorporating these influences to create a cuisine style that has become very popular in the last ten years or so. The house-made dips at Byblós were a highlight—delicious labneh, hommous and baba ghannouj served with lebanese bread—and Samke Harra was a powerhouse of fresh flavours—succulent snapper with a kick of chilli.
Sweet dishes can have a pronounced French influence with patisserie-style desserts and pastries, but there is also a strong tradition of Middle Eastern sweets such as turkish delight, baklawa and shortbread biscuits.
The creme brulée was one of the best I have had. The citrus flavours are subtle, just enough to add a little complexity to what is already a perfect dessert. For a spectacular end to your meal, the house-made Turkish Delight is recommended. I was dubious that it could taste as good as it looked but it certainly did. The Turkish Delight was pillowy-soft and delicious, the Persian pashmak was a fresh, fluffy and subtly flavoured version of “fairy floss” and the Middle Eastern biscuits proved to be moist and surprisingly tasty.The quality of the food served at Byblós is consistently good and unique on the Coast, but just as important is the service. Michael Nouri is the charismatic General Manager and a visible presence in the restaurant, making all patrons feel welcome and involving them in his passion for the food of his heritage. His staff all seem to share his enthusiasm and you will find relaxed, smiling and attentive service that makes Byblós a restaurant to return to again and again.