The Turkish Tea House

Designer's touch: The Turkish Tea House combines cafe and homewares store.
Designer's touch: The Turkish Tea House combines cafe and homewares store. Photo: Luis Ascui

232 Whitehorse Rd Balwyn, VIC 3103

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Opening hours Mon-Sat 8am-4.30pm
Features Family friendly, Cheap Eats, Breakfast-brunch, Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly, Lunch specials, Gluten-free options
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 8592 4912

No one could say the Turkish Tea House lacked taste.

This cafe-plus-homewares shop tackles taste from two angles, selling a small number of select imported items (which covers the aesthetic-discernment department), as well as an all-day breakfast and lunch menu made up of grain-and-veg salads and Turkish dishes that look after the flavour department.

The homewares for sale furnish the cafe in a light-handed way. Each timber table has a glowing mosaic-glass lamp, with a price tag, and a painted ceramic sugar bowl, other versions of which also sit, with plates and mugs, in a decorative cabinet of things for sale at the front of the cafe.

The menemen (scrambled eggs) is served in a pan.
The menemen (scrambled eggs) is served in a pan. Photo: Luis Ascui

The furnishings are almost incidental, displayed with a designer's touch, such as the row of five fezzes (hats) along the top of a framed lattice screen mounted on the wall. It's more cushy than commercial. 

Interiors is one talent of owner Nehir Kayice (who moonlights as an interior designer), cooking is another. She and husband Ozi Kayice​ owned a Turkish restaurant in Brunswick before starting businesses in Balwyn (Ozi's barber shop is next door to the Tea House). For cafe-goers with smashed-avocado fatigue, the Turkish Tea House could be the breakfast/brunch option at the end of the rainbow.

The salads are Ottolenghi-esque – exalting vegetables (pickled, raw and cooked) of all colours, shapes and sizes, tossed with fresh, chopped herbs, maybe some seeds, and a light dressing. There are five, including a quinoa, with cauliflower, pumpkin, rocket leaves and bursting sweet-tart pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate seeds top the quinoa salad.
Pomegranate seeds top the quinoa salad. Photo: Luis Ascui

The tabbouleh is wetter and redder, with tomato and purple cabbage, than I expected, but has a nice grainy texture and the added surprise of hot whole pickled chillies ("from the garden") on top. A chicken salad makes a hero of pieces of sesame-sprinkled chicken, supported by a bed of shredded iceberg and corn kernels.

These are big salads. Ideally a few would be in the middle of the table to dip into, so bring some buddies and order gozleme​ as well. The gozleme are made with yufka (filo) pastry so thin, the spinach and feta within shows through the translucent, slightly crisped skin that's mottled brown from its time on the hotplate.

The eggs-any-way section of many cafe menus rarely includes Turkish scrambled eggs (menemen), which can make it a doubly refreshing dish, also for the fresh tomato, onion and chilli it's cooked with. Served in the pan, with a side of warm sesame seed-studded Turkish bread, menemen is a slightly stirred, set scramble. Stab it with the bread and load it on.

The Turkish delight is carved from a block.
The Turkish delight is carved from a block. Photo: Luis Ascui

Stick around for chunks of rose-and-pistachio Turkish delight carved off a block, house-made date slice, and glasses of tea or cups of coffee. It's taste without haste here.

THE LOWDOWN
Do
 … Expect a (special) hot dish of the day.
Don't … Think there's just tea at the Tea House; there's Turkish and espresso coffee, too.
Vibe ... Comfortable place with a sedate pace.

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