Babajan Brunswick East
Over the course of a typical morning at Carlton North cafe Babajan, the counter is steadily stacked with oven-fresh baked goods and colourful salads, only to be reliably emptied over lunch.
Such is the popularity of the ready-made fare at the four-year-old Turkish and Middle Eastern cafe, owner-chef Kirsty Chiaplias has now opened a takeaway-only pop-up a suburb over, on Lygon Street, Brunswick East.
“The pop-up is basically all the things we love at Babajan – the retail and counter stuff, and the popular dishes – condensed into a little retail shop all packaged up, ready for people to take home,” says Chiaplias.
That means simits (circular, sesame seed-crusted rolls); boreks, including family packs; haloumi pies; pide topped with sucuk (dry, spicy sausage) or cheese; and sweet pastries including baklava, brownies with chocolate and Turkish delight, and dense almond-flour Persian love cake with a hint of rosewater.
It also means spice mixes, dips (such as hummus and baba ganoush), grain-based pilafs, and a rotating selection of salads, all ready to grab’n’go.
“Today I did roasted honey carrots, fenugreek braised greens, and a turmeric and eggplant pilaf with crispy onions,” says Chiaplias. “There’s always a broccoli, kale, avocado and dukkah [salad], and one of our potato salads is really popular.”
Chiaplias opened Babajan in mid-2016 with Turkish-Australian chef Ismail Tosun. He has since departed, but his influence is still felt on the menu.
Aside from its jam-packed counter, the cafe is perhaps best known for its brunches, with dishes such as eggplant Aleppo (spicy pickled eggplant) cheese toasties with fried eggs, fermented chilli and sumac onions; and menemen (Turkish-style baked eggs) with tomato, spinach and pistachio dukkah.
At the pop-up, ambitious home cooks can find everything they need to replicate their favourites without leaving the house.
“We’ve jarred those items up so people can grab a sourdough, grab some of the cheese we use, grab the eggplant Aleppo, grab some Turkish chillies and make [the toastie] at home if they want to,” says Chiaplias.
“Same with the menemen – we’ve got the harissa, the dukkah, the feta cheese – they can make their spicy menemen eggs at home to resemble what they have at Babajan.”
The pop-up also mimics the lean design of the original, with white walls, a little bit of timber and hanging plants, but there’s no kitchen and no seating, aside from a long bench. Nor is there a coffee machine.
There will be Proud Mary batch brew, though, as well as traditional Turkish coffee and Turkish iced tea, plus soft drinks. Chiaplias is also hoping to secure a liquor license, “so people can grab stuff for lunch or stuff for dinner and they can get a bottle of wine or a case of beer,” she says.
“We want to make it a whole package for people.”
The Babajan Pop-Up opened on Thursday January 23, 2020, and is expected to run for at least six weeks.