The Original Balkan
249 Crown St
Darlinghurst, Sydney

The Original Balkan has been around for 50 years - yes 50! That's a very long time for any business let alone a restaurant.

Whilst it has moved a short distance to its current location a few years ago - it's still the same familiar place - same food and same staff.

The restaurant has a comfortable, homely feel to it. It still looks and feels like a restaurant though. It's current location was once part of a church, and this gives the feel of space with its high ceilings, exposed beams and arches.

There are quite a few different spaces here too. The front room leads through to another large room at the rear. There's also a good sized function room upstairs that's heavily booked, especially on weekends. Downstairs they seat 130 and upstairs 65.

When in Rome - or in this case when in a Balkan restaurant........  We always love to try different things, whether it's the food or the drinks. In this case we tried Croatian beer for the first (and not last) time. It was great even if the name was unpronounceable to us! Another, um, one of those beers please!

In a Balkan restaurant it's clearly best to eat the dishes of the region.

The cabbage roll is just that, a traditional dish of cabbage leaves filled with a tasty mix.

When served, it resembles a savoury pancake in appearance.

Apart from the great flavours, you notice just how big this is. Be prepared - it's all big here!

Our next "starter" was a plate of fried goodies. The smell of them arriving was enough to get us salivating.

This plate had both prawn cutlets and fried whitebait.

We loved both. The crisp light crumb coating was so good , revealing tender seafood underneath.

As always it was a huge serving too.

The garlic prawns here are one of the most popular dishes. Let yourself go, it's worth it. These plump tender prawns are slathered in a garlicky, chilli mix that you'll want to keep dipping your bread into after you've finished the prawns - it's so good.

The Balkan salad - potato and shredded cabbage - was so good we just couldn't stop eating it - even when full.

Oh my, the wine was really good. Again, we hadn't had Croatian wine before - in fact we didn't even realise they made wine there - even though most countries do! If you like a mellow, medium bodied wine then the Peljesac is definitely worth trying. 

Sir kind of grew up on chevapi - well he's had it plenty of times before at least - but this was a first for Mlady. It's basically a mildly spiced sausage without any skin - which is an oversimplification, but you get the gist. Sir said these were so much better than he'd ever had before - with much more flavour in them. The capsicum and onion salsa was delish too.

Serving a fish cooked whole looks great.

You certainly know you're eating fish - it's staring you in the face almost.

This was whole John Dory and even though it was a large serving - again - the flesh was so tender and juicy we just kept picking at it until it was all gone.

Next - yes believe it or not there was a next - was scampi.

In Australia we'd regard scampi as a kind of like a large prawn or small crayfish. So if you like this type of seafood, and we do a lot, then give it a go. These were split, lightly grilled and served on lettuce with some lemon wedges. They were very good!

You have to save some room for dessert here! We tried two choices of pancakes. First was the fruit pancake which was packed with healthy fillings and served with ice cream. The second was a crepe filled with delicious traditional plum jam.

Both were sensational. Mlady preferred the first while Sir opted for the second!

The Original Balkan is an institution in Sydney. It's been around forever because it is that good. The food is great and comes in huge servings. The drinks are just as good too and the service is so friendly and helpful. Give it a go - you won't be disappointed.

Sir and Mlady dined as guests of The Original Balkan. Special thanks to owners John and Tanja (and the previous generation Nedeo and Danica) for the invitation and to Sanja and Rose for looking after us so well.

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