Sydney's 'original' Balkan Restaurant closes after 55 years

Croatian specialist: The pioneering Balkan restaurants at Taylor Square in 1985.
Croatian specialist: The pioneering Balkan restaurants at Taylor Square in 1985. Photo: Antonin Cermak

A 55-year Sydney restaurant run has fizzled out in unbefitting style, with the original Balkan Restaurant on Crown Street serving its last cevapcici.  

In a familiar story for the harbour city, development proved the final straw for a restaurant stalwart that provided the first taste of Balkan cuisine and Croatian specialities for a generation of Sydneysiders.

Owner John Bacic explained the lack of a long-term lease forced him to switch off the lights before regulars had a chance to pay their last respects.

The restaurant relocated from its original Oxford Street site.
The restaurant relocated from its original Oxford Street site.  Photo: Antonin Cermak

"When it opened in 1964 my mother was the chef. She and dad bought it (in the 1970s), so the family have always been involved," he says.

The restaurant schooled Sydney at the dawn of its true culinary awakening, a period where young immigrants added some edible exotica to Australia's overused staples.

Cabbage rolls, pepper steak and grilled octopus mightn't seem overly adventurous now, but it was uncharted territory for diners used to meat and three veg.

The restaurant relocated from its original site on Oxford Street to Crown Street eight years ago and always pushed its case as the "original" Balkan.

With the restaurant now gone, it's left to the Balkan Seafood Restaurant – which Bacic says is owned by "relatives and former business partners" – to wave the flag.