The grandmother of Melbourne’s northside cafes, oh those blintzes…
In the last half-a-decade or so, Melbourne’s northside has been increasingly viewed as an up-and-coming place, a favourite of the hipster and bohemian, the student and young professional. Mirroring this trend, a few inspired dining venues have emerged from its generally nondescript road strips, not to mention a proliferation of cafes on an epidemic scale. Arguably, these cafes, rather than the restaurants, embody the laid-back nature of Melbourne’s inner-north. Before the hipster-ification of Melbourne’s inner-north, there was Babka. Beyond an entrance festooned by spray painted and stencilled babushkas, the cafe space is all brown rustic warmth, its air scented by the aromas of freshly baked crusty bread and flecked by coffee. Babka is always crowded with people — the crying toddler and his overwhelmed mother, the urban hipster and his retro glasses, the scraggly old man with a rolled newspaper or tattered book under his arm — all lining up for their daily loaf, a sweet tart, or waiting to order a small selection of brunch and lunch meals from the scrawled blackboard. Most of these dishes directly salute old Mother Russia — think borscht, barley, dumplings. But sweets abounds amid that stodgy Soviet-style heaviness.
For sweet-tooths on the hunt for a sweet breakfast, Babka never disappoints. The constant breakfast dessert are the “Blintzes” ($9.50). Here at Babka, two parcels of blinis are baby-soft crepes (slightly heavier in texture than the French version) just slightly baked or fried on the underside. They swaddle a rich traditional filling of cottage cheese and raisins and are dusted with a lacy shawl of finely-grained sugar and cinnamon. Honey, sometimes sweetly tinged with orange, is drizzled over the plate. A hard squeeze of lemon is recommended, to cut through the richness.
Brunch dessert specials are also available at Babka. MoMo & Coco have indulged in a Hanukkah friendly challah french toast and of course, the lemon tart (look out for a lemon tart guide coming soon!). On our most recent visit, the subject of this documented blog review, our dining companion had the pleasure of a stack of “Ricotta Pancakes” ($10.50). It was sprinkled with gritty pistachio, a flick of strawberries and thin sweeps of jam-like syrup. We had a small bite and sniffle of this golden fluffy-ness, and it was a satisfying breakfast dessert. But our hearts belong to the Blintzes.
Translating to grandmother in Russian, Babka Bakery Cafe remains the grandmother of Melbourne’s northside cafes. Consistently affable service, fabulous baked beauties and… those blintzes. It’s a pity that the new generation of cafes in Babka’s neighbouring inner-city district stand for the antithetical experience of nonchalant incompetence and over-hyped food offerings. For once, it could be said, they could learn a thing or so from the older generation…
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Babka Bakery Cafe, 358 Brunswick Street, Brunswick/Fitzroy, Vic 3065.
- ☑ Budget: $
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Breakfast dessert.
- ☑ Must-eat: The Blintzes.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: The grandmother of Melbourne’s cafe, oh those blintzes…