Turkish chefs team up at Glass Merchants cafe in Balaclava

Cilbir - poached egg, yoghurt and wilted spinach with spiced burnt butter poured at the table.
Cilbir - poached egg, yoghurt and wilted spinach with spiced burnt butter poured at the table. Photo: Justin McManus

In 2018, southside restaurateurs Kemal Barut (Lezzet) and Coskun Uysal (Tulum) announced they were joining forces to create a Turkish restaurant group that promoted a shared vision of modern Anatolian dining – exciting, diverse and way beyond dips and kebabs. They've now begun their expansion with a takeover of big Balaclava cafe Glass Merchants.

Melbourne knows Uysal as a fine-dining chef but he came to prominence in Istanbul's cafe scene, at one time running 12 cafes and overseeing 65 chefs. He's relishing the opportunity to show Australia another side of his game.

The warehouse space, behind stalwart Wall Two 80, has been running as a cafe for five years but never quite realised its potential. The pair hope that will now change, with an exciting Turkish-ish menu that includes avo toast with a fusion "Vegemite" made with tahini and pekmez, a dark grape syrup. Pastries (spinach borek, feta pogaca) and cakes (chocolate and halva, semolina and rosewater) are all made from scratch.

Balaclava cafe Glass Merchants serves a Turkish-ish menu.
Balaclava cafe Glass Merchants serves a Turkish-ish menu. Photo: Justin McManus

Tulum fans will be thrilled to learn that the restaurant's most famous dish, cilbir, has been resurrected here. Uysal's new spin on his favourite after-school snack is a generous bowl of oozy poached eggs, tart yoghurt and wilted spinach with spiced burnt butter poured at the table. Served with toasted and well-buttered sourdough for dipping and scooping, it's as delicious as it is comforting.

Plans include devoting one corner to handmade gozleme (Barut's mother has her rolling pin ready), a pop-up Turkish ice-cream stall (they're roping in Harun Yalcin from Northcote's Cuppa Turca, who makes the best dondurma in town) and an all-day bakery station supplying in-house diners and wholesale buyers.

Open Tue-Sun 7am-4pm.

63 Nelson Street, Balaclava, 03 8528 0118