Sydney Road, Brunswick

Posted on February 12, 2010


Sydney Road is the beating heart of Brunswick. Although it proudly lays claim to being Melbourne’s longest continuous shopping strip, its sheer length can sometimes be a curse as shoppers struggle with the logistical challenge of traversing the road. At the moment, the strategy that’s being used is to compartmentalise the road into several distinct sections – a trendy strip hosts up and coming labels and ‘new Brunswick’ cafes; further up the road on Brunswick Hill are a concentration of ‘old Brunswick’ Middle Eastern bakeries, grocers and restaurants; and then a quiet strip of factory outlets that abruptly leads to a bustling street filled with bazaars, kebab stalls and outdoor cafes. Following is a sample of what to expect along Sydney Road.

Brunswick has a large proportion of Lebanese Australians, who incidentally have the highest marriage rates in Melbourne. Naturally Sydney Road is lined with scores of wedding gown boutiques.

A Sydney Road institution, Alasya is a restaurant, bakery and butcher all in one. They serve traditional Turkish food you’d expect at home if you were theoretically Turk. During the fasting month I always look forward to buying their Ramadan pide bread – so light and fluffy and just tempting you to poke with your fingers. They’re experts with the savoury stuff but unremarkable (at least to me) with their sweets, so skip their baklava and head over instead to the specialty baklava stores along the road…

…such as the Revelation of the Year, El Fayha. If Balha’s further up is palatial and overflowing with baklava and other middle eastern sweets, El Fayha is modest, quaint and like most things on Sydney Road looks like it’s trapped in time. If Balha’s baklavas are heavily flavoured with rosewater (a little too much maybe), El-Fayha’s are well balanced, hitting deep, subtle notes of spices which complement the sweetness. I also think they take great care in applying the ghee across the pastry, because their baklava are both crunchy and dense to the bite, a pleasant textural experience; with Balha’s I get this irksome grinding feel when I bite into the baklava. But it is El-Fayha’s sweet custard in filo pastry that brought it home for me. I still think about it like it’s my longlost lover. Disturbing. El Fayha, 648 Sydney Rd Brunswick

High quality butchers, their specialty Turkish products include excellent sujuk (spicy turkish sausage), pastırma (smoked corned beef), adana and kofte beef mince and marinated bbq chicken drummettes. I always get the drummettes for when I’m too lazy to cook; just roast them in the oven and dinner appears magically 45 minutes and 220°C later. Istanbul Halal Meats, 609 Sydney Road

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“Sujuk, salami, sausage, pastrami are our own products”. The dotted i is pronounced the normal way, and the undotted i is pronounced like the ‘e’ in father. Just another random fact you’ll never need to use…

An ol skool pharmacy in a grungy street.

Posted in: Melbourne