Balaclava remains home to a thriving Jewish community, but in the true multicultural spirit of Melbourne, Carlisle Street now buzzes with everything from taco joints to Indian grocers. No matter where you come from, every culture has a sweet tooth. Here are five desserts from around the world, all within walking distance, thanks to Seasoned Traveller founder and journalist Sofia Levin,
1. Turkish tavuk gogsu from Tulum
217 Carlisle St, Balaclava, (03) 9525 9127
Chef Coskun Uysal prefers to let people try tavuk gogsu before telling them the secret ingredient. The milky dessert is dense and reminiscent of rice pudding, but he zhooshes his up with kataifi pastry, lemon thyme ice cream and aerated caramel mousse. As for that secret ingredient, it’s chicken breast. You won’t taste it – the protein is boiled over three hours and the water changed a dozen times. The chicken is then shredded and whizzed with warm milk and butter in a food processor, which causes it to thicken before it’s set in the fridge. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Tavuk gogsu has been around since the Ottoman Empire.
2. Traditional Indian sweets from Brijwasi Indian Grocery and Vegetarian Cafe
115 Carlisle St, Balaclava, 0416 469 366
This unassuming grocer opened in the middle of lockdown in October 2020. Owner Jamal Dua has been vegan for 20 years and is eager to give the local community affordable, delicious plant-based options for both lunch and dessert. Alongside vegan slices based on classic chocolate bars, the refrigerated front counter also flaunts colourful, syrupy Indian desserts flavoured with spices and decorated with silver leaf. Jamal hopes to open an upstairs dining room for 50 people in the near future and is about to add vegan pizza, burgers and wraps to the lunchtime curry menu.
3. Mexican carlota from Si Senor Art Taqueria
193 Carlisle St, Balaclava, (03) 9995 1083
Typically served at home in Mexico, the carlota is a chilled, citrusy cake-like slice. It has similarities to tres leche (three milks dessert), and at Si Senor Art Taqueria it’s made with cream cheese, condensed milk, evaporated milk and limoncello. Add biscuits for a bit of crunch, key lime curd, berries, almond flakes and a colourful courtyard to enjoy it in and it’s Si Senor indeed.
4. Japanese mochi & panna cotta from Bounty of the Sun
28 Nelson St, Balaclava, (03) 9525 5589, bountyofthesun.com.au
Bounty of the Sun snuck into Balaclava at the end of 2020. It’s an incredibly cool spot – all concrete-minimalism and Japanese paraphernalia – but you’re here for dessert. Mochi are available in rotating flavours (perhaps mango or tiramisu), while chef Ryo Doyama puts his own spin on vanilla panna cotta, plating it with almond crumble and house yuzu jam. Treat Bounty of the Sun like the izakaya it is and ask for a sake recommendation – or perhaps a sakura (cherry blossom) and strawberry iced tea cocktail is more your thing.
5. Homemade Syrian sweets from Levanter Cafe
298 Carlisle St, Balaclava, (03) 8589 3241
Levanter is a warm and welcoming cafe run by Sam Dawod and Marcelle Hanna, a mother-and-son duo who arrived in Melbourne as refugees in 2016. Sam, who was in visual effects multimedia before moving to Australia, decided to open the cafe in 2018. The original plan was to only serve coffee, but Marcelle insisted on cooking. Lucky for us, she now makes the trays of sweets displayed in the window, including kataifi and pistachio baklava, semolina cake and galaktoboureko – the latter a Greek wildcard made by Sam’s neighbour. Order yours with a Syrian coffee spiked with cardamom or fresh Calmer Sutra chai.