It’s a family-run business that has been around since 1998 and El Jannah has become one of the most popular charcoal chicken restaurants in Sydney.
The grilled charcoal chicken is reputed to be among the best in Sydney with its signature garlic sauce being a family recipe. I have read about this place for years in many food guides and more recently through food blogs but have somehow never got the chance to visit.
However, I am on the loose end tonight with two of my mates and my idea to the boys of gnawing on succulent and juicy charcoal chicken seems irresistible.
The queues at El Jannah are legendary but the location of the restaurant is definitely convenient for a boys’ night out. The restaurant is across the road from Granville train station and the Royal Hotel Granville is literally a stone throw away on South street.
There are at least three charcoal chicken restaurants all located within walking distance of each other and this area is famous for its smoky charcoal chicken fumes that can be sniffed out even from the train station across the road. To me, this kind of advertising is pure gold – you hook in your customers with that smoky chicken aromas even as they are walking on the street!
It’s Thursday night and to avoid the queues, we settle for a couple of beers at the Royal Hotel Granville before walking about 30 metres across the road to El Jannah at 7.30pm. The restaurant occupies two shoplots and there are tables both inside the restaurant and a fairly large alfresco dining area outside.
The restaurant is packed when we walk in but the counter staff appear very efficient in processing the orders.
We are told to wait for a table and within five minutes, our order is taken, paid for and we are seated with an order number, waiting fork and knife in hand for our meal.
I look around and the clientele are mainly young, hungry, beefy-looking charcoal chicken lovers.
I like baba ganoush and it arrives with its signature reservoir of olive oil in the middle and sprinkled with paprika and some chopped parsley.
For a casual restaurant, this baba ganoush is one of the best I have tasted – smooth, creamy and smoky eggplant that is a perfect dip for fresh Lebanese bread which are provided complimentary with the charcoal chicken.
They are generous with the Lebanese bread which comes freshly packed in plastic.
“Is one charcoal chicken enough for the three of us?” Arthur asks.
“Mate, don’t be greedy, just start eating and see how we go” I say.
The vegetables all arrive first as if to tempt us even more as we eagerly wait for the charcoal chicken.
A tabouli is fresh with the zingy flavours of garlic, lemon juice and tomatoes.
The garden salad with Italian dressing is essentially a Greek salad without the feta cheese.
El Jannah’s signature garlic sauce for the charcoal chicken is more like a smooth, garlic-flavoured cream.
This cream is light and the subtle hint of garlic makes it a nice spread for the Lebanese bread, let alone the chicken which has yet to arrive.
All this while, we see more and more charcoal chickens being replenished at the counter from the fiery charcoal grills in the kitchen.
As if to tempt us even further, a plate of pickled radish in psychedelic pink and gerhkin is also complimentary with our charcoal chicken.
These crunchy pickles are tangy and sour and I think it’s El Jannah way to whet our appetites even more.
A bowl of regular chips is hot and crispy, sprinkled with that tasty chicken salt which makes you yearn for Coke and lemonade.
El Jannah’s charcoal chicken – The verdict
The long-awaited moment has arrived. If ordering a whole chicken, you have the option of having it chopped into quarters or eight pieces.
The chicken is obviously very fresh and the smoky aromas of charcoal is unmistakable. I find the breast meat a little dry although the baba ganoush and garlic sauce are excellent dips for this meat to go into.
The chicken wings are slightly burnt and dry. Scraping off the burnt and slightly bitter bits might be an idea for those not used to caveman-like food.
The thigh and drumstick are tender and juicy.
I am willing to bet the charcoal chicken-eating fraternity in Sydney’s west would have tasted El Jannah and it’s easy to see why – chicken at prices you just cannot fault. A takeaway whole charcoal chicken will set you back a mere $10.90.
The menu also serves beef and chicken burgers, lamb, beef and chicken skewers.
Our bill came to $41.40 (without drinks) for 3 hungry boys, so it’s easy to see why this place is popular.
“Are you full, Arthur?” I ask my friend.
Leaning back in his chair, rubbing his tummy and shaking his head, he blurts out “I’m stuff, mate!”
Overall, the chicken has a nice smoky aroma since it is so thoroughly cooked in a hot grill and the garlic sauce is a nice complement.
Is El Jannah’s charcoal chicken as tasty as everyone who has ever been there raves like hell about it?
I’m not quite sure what’s the big fuss over the chicken here, which I found to be dry and some bits like the wings burnt. The accompanying garlic sauce is more like a cream and considering so many reviews have raved about it, I found it a bit over-rated. Personally, I prefer the flavours of Nando’s charcoal chicken which they claim has been marinated for 24-hours before it hits the grill. I find Nando’s smaller chickens decidedly more juicy, succulent and tasty. Being a chilli fiend, Nando’s fiery peri-peri sauce is a winning combination in my books.
Judging by the crowd tonight, El Jannah might be grilling more charcoal chickens each day than any Nando’s outlet and they are also decidedly cheaper than Nando’s too.
But when my next craving of charcoal chicken comes around, I’m quite sure about where I would be heading.
So dear readers, which is your favourite grilled charcoal chicken in Sydney?
El Jannah – Granville
4 – 6 South street
Granville, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9637 0977
El Jannah – Punchbowl
701 Punchbowl road
Punchbowl, New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 9759 2999
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 10am – midnight, Sunday 10am – 11pm