PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
After 48 years serving Croatian food to diners on Oxford Street, The Original Balkan Restaurant became something of an icon, with an army of regulars and a reputation for treating everyone who crossed its threshold as a family member.
Now, the family business continues its legacy on Crown Street, in a sensitively restored church, with a dramatic pitched roof and gothic lead light windows. Aside from the views onto Crown street, you could well be in a large family home on the Croatian coast. Wall-mounted family portraits and waitresses who refer to guests as "darling", are just a few of the touches that make Balkan a family-favourite.
Like the restaurant's aesthetic, the menu features something for everyone. We start on a fresh note with a warm Balkan salad of cabbage and potato that's loaded with onion, a lemony zing and green capsicum for crunch. Of the seafood dishes, of which there are many, it's the garlic prawns that steal the show. Served sizzling in a cast iron pot, the prawns are coated with a simmering sauce that offers just the right amount of heat. Food from the grill is cooked the traditional way – over charcoal. The eagerly awaited pola-pola dish, composed of grilled mince meat packages and juicy marinated pork skewers, is infused with a smoky flavour and is the type of dish that leaves you licking your fingers.
We have two suggestions for when dining at Balkan; Firstly, don't get overwhelmed by the extensive menu (let the waitress help you here) and secondly, make sure you save room for dessert. Overflowing with fresh banana, strawberry and kiwi fruit, the crepes are worth saving room for.
Whether you're just after a light meal and a coffee or a full-blown Mediterranean feast complete with rakija, at The Balkan, you get the feeling you're always welcome.