It only takes a moment to realise that something different is in the mix at Baba Yaga. First of all there is the name. It obviously sounds different. Nowadays the cafe even looks different.
On the shortlist of names and places we are all accustomed to revisiting when searching for great coffee along Darby Street, Baba Yaga just doesn't quite fit. What do those words mean? Didn't it used to be called something else? Why do they always look so busy?
Take a step inside Baba Yaga and the answers are right there in front of you. When owner and barista Oscar Kilic greets you with a wide-eyed smile and an old-fashioned moustache, you immediately sense that you have poked your head into a different time zone altogether.
There are jars of peppers and Turkish coffee pots lined up along the wall. Traditional gozleme is being freshly prepared along a tiny benchtop in front of you. Below the cash register is a montage of foreign bank notes, crinkled and overlaid like old postage stamps. It doesn't exactly feel like one of the hottest coffee spots on Darby Street. It's a slow, scenic, afternoon tour rather than an express lane to your morning espresso.
This distinct feeling that the coffee is slowing you down rather than hurrying you along stems from their philosophy more than your illusion. It relates to the Baba Yaga way, a method of doing things attentively but also creatively. It's a way that has originated from a Turkish heritage, but has then been translated on to their menu and into their coffee - the classic hits of Darby Street with a European remix.
The avocado on toast is truffled and dotted with caper berries and sesame seeds ($21). The bruschetta is spiced with cured beef pastirma, laden with haloumi and then speckled with pomegranate molasses ($19.50). Then there is the gozleme. A selection of six warm, baked flatbreads spill out with freshness, inventiveness and home-made ingredients ($14-16).
By themselves, the elements are nothing new. Prepared together at Baba Yaga they take on a new, exotic character. Even the Turkish apple iced tea ($7) has garnered its own, dedicated fanbase.
And the same thing can be said about their coffee. The Estate blend by Surry Hills roasters Veneziano has attracted a passionate following at Baba Yaga; an impressive feat in a neighbourhood already spoilt for exotic, finely crafted espresso blends. Like everything else here, the flavour is as much as a pleasure as it is a surprise. It's nothing completely new in texture and body, but the experience that accompanies it - the quirky style and the professional service - is one of the most satisfying around.
"We get compliments every day about our coffee," Kilic says. "It's great to hear from customers who know and tell you what they want. It's especially good for us when they come back a second time because they have enjoyed the coffee that they have had their first time around."
- Baba Yaga, 155 Darby Street, Cooks Hill
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