Review: Melbourne Turkish food tour explores culture and cuisine along Sydney Road
The sharing of food is an important part of most cultures, which makes food tours a great way to connect with cultural tradition. Join this Turkish food walking tour along Sydney Road in Melbourne's inner-north for a delicious introduction to one of the city's most multicultural precincts.
This fabulous Melbourne Turkish food tour of Sydney Road in Brunswick will introduce you to some of the oldest Turkish restaurants in the city. You’ll enjoy a progressive lunch at three superb family owned eateries, and learn more about Turkish culture and customs along the way. Duration: 3 hours (approx.)
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It was back in the mid 70s when that mainstay of school fundraising committees, the progressive dinner party, was at the height of its popularity.
It was about the same time that the original Turkish restaurants on Melbourne’s bustling Sydney Road began opening their doors. This shared moment in history made a comeback for me this week, as I tagged along on the fabulous Melbourne Turkish food tour of Sydney Road with Foodie Trails.
For the uninitiated (or way too young to remember), the progressive dinner involved moving from one location to another for each course of the meal (soup, entrée, main, dessert etc). So it is on this Melbourne Turkish food tour. You’ll visit three separate Turkish food outlets for three different courses, and gain a greater understanding of Melbourne’s cultural diversity as part of the deal.
After meeting our guide Himanshi at the appointed time, we head off at a leisurely pace towards our first stop. Our starter — known in Turkish culture as meze (small plates) — is a selection of dips smeared on freshly baked Turkish bread at the Golden Terrace Turkish Restaurant, which was established in 1976. I’ve walked along this strip hundreds of times but I’ve never even noticed this place. That’s one of the amazing things about doing a guided tour like this in your home city. It causes you to zone in on stuff you normally wouldn’t focus on.
Each of the dips we try has its own unique characteristics and there’s seriously nothing like Turkish bread that’s just come out of the wood-fired oven.
Our next stop is the Alasya Turkish Restaurant (circa 1978) for main course — a selection of kebab meats, dolmas (mince and spices wrapped in cabbage) and my absolute favourite dish of the day — stuffed pides. Here Himanshi takes the time to tell us more about the history of Turkish cuisine and the various geographic and historic forces that have shaped the food we’re enjoying today.
Alasya prepares and bakes everything on site. You can watch the pastry workers in action and there are glass cabinets packed with baklavas and Turkish delight. But there’s no time to indulge just yet.
Further down Sydney Road and we pay a visit to a Turkish grocery and spice market. Again, I would never usually walk into a shop like this. It just wouldn’t occur to me to do it. But we’re made to feel more than welcome and it’s fascinating to peruse the aromatic spices on offer.
It’s on to Balha Bakery for the final course on this Melbourne Turkish food tour. We enjoy a selection of sweet, sticky baklavas. Judging by the crowds in the shop, it’s no secret just how indescribably good these pastries are.
For Melbourne residents that pride themselves on their knowledge of the city’s fabulous food scene, this tour is a must-do. For visitors, it’s the perfect way to get a taste of the Victorian capital’s extraordinary cultural diversity. And you can return to the glory days of the progressive dinner party in the process.
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.