Oh hello! Crazy story to tell actually! Tonight I decided at the last minute to ask a friend if she was up for a catch up via the Bondi to Bronte coastal walk and she agreed. We agreed on 7pm, she picked me up and it was clear that we were in for a little unluckiness regarding the weather. It was drizzling ever so slightly, with flickers of rain hitting the windscreen in an irregular, non-melodic motion. But we were dead set on this walk so we parked the car and went strolling for a good hour and a half through sandstone staircases, steep grass inclines, puddles of rain and whatnot and believe it or not, not ONCE did it start pouring. It was a brilliant walk, the sky a muddled hue of rose pink, dusty yellow and indigo. I got home and instantly, the thunder begun, ravenous, intense, the rain now crashing onto the flat’s windows as if desperate to make its way inside and wreak havoc on the old, tattered apartment. The lightning struck a deep, electric purple and suffice to say, I was pretty scared. Instantly, Melbourne came to mind.
Look, I know some of you will roll your eyes at the explanation of yet another Melbourne-focused food blog post but this one is worth it, for reals. Nowhere in Sydney will you discover a sense of cosiness the way you will be enveloped within on a trip to Melbourne. There’s something so beautifully rugged up and warm-spirited about our sister city and this became blatant when it started to rain and my companion and I made our way into the nearest café on our day trip to motley, bohemian Fitzroy: Babka. I regret that I didn’t take ANY quality photos of this buzzing café’s innards but it was just the cutest thing. Imagine walking into a kitschy, Russian-inspired world, complete with intricate wall tiling which contrasted starkly to the bare mahogany tables and chairs. It’s so squishy, almost claustrophobia-inducing, but this just adds to the buzz of happiness you feel when walking through its charming doors. Babka serves traditional Eastern European fare – think Challah (sweet plaid bread), crusty bread loaves, Borscht, homemade hearty pies – and this only gives you a glimpse of why it’s popular. Sydney’s Newtown now has a similar joint on the sleepy end of King St: Izba.
What happened next was hilarious, and reminded us that regardless of distance from our hometown, the world spins differently here. Sophia ordered a chai and I was in need of a green tea, as well as a Flourless Orange Cake and slice of Peach Tarte Tatin to share. The chai came out first, and the construction was nothing but confusing. The steamy milk, heady with whole spices, was placed in a stainless steel jug and because the glass cup and sieve were brought out a little later, we both looked at the massive concoction in puzzlement and chuckled at how odd and impractical it was. But alas, we were the ones in the wrong. Once the cup was brought out, something clicked inside our befuddled brains and we gasped an ‘ahhhh’ in unison. What a strange way to serve chai. What a couple of fools! The dense, sticky cake was impressive in its entirety, so tall and proud on its tiny white plate. It was love at first bite, and I wish I could bother making something even vaguely resonant to the nutty, bittersweet slice at home. But I’m a lazy cook, so it’s unlikely. We were awestruck at the cake (yes, this really is how food-obsessed people talk) and decided early on that it was the dish of the day, or year, but little did we expect the tarte to steal the crown and take up the number one spot. Buttery, flaky, chewy pastry and a caramel-hued, almost transparent peach filling were the perfect match. We couldn’t get enough of it. Our experience in little Russia was over before we knew it, all too soon. But I know some day I’ll return, I just know I will.
Babka, 358 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065, (03) 9416 0091.