Jul 18, 2011
Food & Dining
by Sarah Gordon
Food tastes a lot different when you’re starving. You senses are heightened, your emotions are a bit awry and, if you’re hypoglycemic, you’re borderline psychotic. So after a trip to the airport with no breakfast and $11 for 30 minutes of parking you’ll need a safe haven, preferably with fresh challah, lemon tart with a crème brulee top and eggs of some kind. One of the many beautiful things about Melbourne is (no surprise) the abundance of interesting cafes. The menus aren’t carbon copies of their neighbours up the street and the same sleazy barista isn’t working the coffee machine/chatting up C-grade Auckland celebs.
So we headed to Babka, a Russian café & bakery as famous for its date baguette as it is for its surly staff. I gave my dining partner a brief warning but I knew he didn’t believe me. We walked in and asked for a table for two. The waitress glared at us and then, like clockwork, her eyes glazed over and she pointed to a table, without uttering a single word.
The Babka menu is made up of breakfast and lunch items as well as selection of specials; Potato & mushroom dumplings, beetroot borscht, kranksy sausage with dill potatoes and horseradish, blintzes with citrus sauce and more traditional fare including eggs and hotcakes. From our seats we peered into the cabinet, which was filled with seemingly perfect cakes and tarts. No “rustic” tags here, just exemplary examples of Belgium chocolate cake, pear frangipane tart, apple tarte tartin and lemon tart with the aforementioned brulee top.
A slightly more polite waitress approached our table and we placed our order of blintzes, kranksy and potato & mushroom dumplings and kranksy. Seconds later a little basket laden with house-baked bread appeared with a side of soft butter. Slices of challah (Jewish/Eastern European-style braided egg bread), wholemeal and seeded breads were smeared with butter and inhaled.
Coffee, tea and orange juice appeared and ticked all the expected boxes of a good café; hot & strong, loose leaf and in a teapot and freshly squeezed.
On to our second round of carbs for the morning and our blintzes arrived looking promising. Blintzes are members of the crepe family, although slightly thicker and, as in this case, filled with a sweet blended cottage cheese mix, folded up to make a parcel and served with a citrusy syrup. They disappeared before any real analysis could be made.
Shortly after, the dumplings arrived looking like a bowl of UFO’s and crescent moons, piled-high and topped with sour cream and fresh dill. Quite mild in flavour but ultimately delicious and comforting. Next arrived the kranksy, which appeared as sliced sausage and supported by dill potatoes and fresh horseradish. The simple presentation was no mask for the strong, salty sausage and pungent, hot horseradish, which was offset by the mild potato.
At this stage, service had fizzled-out but we were leaving so no complaints here. We ordered a challah bread, slice of chocolate cake and lemon tart to take away and contemplated buying one of their house-made preserves but couldn’t choose from the heaving cabinet full and I was too scared to ask the waitress for assistance for fear of another death glare.
358 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9416 0091
Open Mon 9am-5:30pm; Tue-Sun 9am-7pm
Photo courtesy of foodrehab.com.au. All rights reserved.