After regular appearances at events such as Womadelaide and Plant 4, mother-daughter duo Fatema and Zainab Ayubi have finally opened a permanent space for Shirni Parwana, the dessert-focused offshoot of their family’s celebrated Torrensville restaurant and now-closed Kutchi Deli.
The long-awaited glass cube – in the evolving Plant 3 precinct – opens out onto the laneway next to Plant 4, where you’ll catch passers-by stopped in their tracks peering in to see the colourful fit-out by Studio Ok-Ok. And that’s before you even get to the desserts.
“Our vision for our space was very clear from the beginning,” Zainab tells Broadsheet. “A space that’s warm and inviting and inspired by our rich Afghan culture.”
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Though the space is only small (around 25 square metres), that vision is evident in every inch and detail. Gold arches on the windows and counters are reminiscent of Afghan mosques; the display cabinets are designed with inspiration from traditional Afghan street vendors – colourful mobile carts Zainab tells us you’d find lining the streets and piled high with sweets, fruits and breads. Spherical lamps illuminate the counter that houses a menu of Afghan-inspired sweets, cakes, biscuits, tarts and custards woven with flavours such as saffron, orange blossom, cardamom and rose.
After years of preparing Shirni’s desserts in Parwana’s Torrensville kitchen, the new space, with an on-site kitchen, has allowed the Ayubis to expand the menu with items such as an Afghan cardamom sponge, which is layered with fresh cream and bitter marmalade. There'll also be a dine-in focus on Saturday nights featuring dishes “with a little bit more complexity”, including a Persian love cake served with house-made rose-infused ice-cream.
“The space really gives us the opportunity to introduce traditional Afghan sweets to our customers, recipes that have been passed on to us from our mother and grandmother,” says Zainab.
It’s the most traditional desserts – somewhat to her surprise – that have been the biggest sellers so far: shirpera (an Afghan milk and pistachio fudge); gulab jamun (a sweet, spiced milk dumpling soaked in a cinnamon and cardamom syrup); and light, crisp pastry rolls filled with rose-infused cream.
To drink, there's saffron tea, cardamom-infused tea and traditional chai. Come summertime, you can expect iced chai and house-made sharbat (cordials).
“It’s all a little bit extra at the moment with our teas served on gold trays, gold cups and gold plates with saffron sugar crystals,” says Zainab. “It’s the extra love and care we share within our family. We want our customers to feel as special.”
Down the track, the Ayubis plan to introduce some savoury food, including Afghan and Middle Eastern grazing boards.
Shirni Parwana is currently operating with reduced hours, before the official opening on Saturday August 6.
Plant 3, 6/14 Fourth Street, Bowden
Fri & Sat 10am–3pm, 5pm–9pm