Balkan sanctuary

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Avliya Balkan Cuisine & Desserts, Shop 78, Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre, Point Cook. Phone: 0423 470 458

In a couple of decades adventuring all over, around and in Melbourne’s west, we have enjoyed quite a range of Balkan food.

But in a shopping centre? This is a new wrinkle for us.

We discover that Avilaya is tucked away in a corner of Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre in a cool spot that offers both indoor and outdoor dining.

The white and somewhat frilly ambience at first seems to indicate to us that it’ll be the kind of place we will for sure be offered to us coffee and sweets/cakes – and maybe burek if we’re lucky.

We’re wrong about that – Avliya offers a much more in-depth and broad range.

Even better, there’s a deep love of food going on here, evinced by the fact that everything – including bread and several kinds of side dishes and dips – is made in house.

Trahana ($7.50), listed as “traditional Balkan soup”, is a nice light starter – beef broth-based, it comes across as a sort of near relative of chicken noodle soup.

My Spicy Balkan Burger ($22.50) looks rather plain and unadorned, eh?

But it doesn’t eat that way at all!

The chargrilled bread remains moist and all delicious, the nicely-spicy patty is great and all the bits and pieces – including excellent and very hot crinkle-cut chips – are fine.

It barely needs the house-made ajvar I am nevertheless provided at no extra cost.

The more substantial offerings here are really big; I finish precisely three quarters of my burger, despite commencing with a robust appetite.

Bennie enjoys his by-request chipless Bosnian Souvlaki ($15.95), which is served with a nice side salad and tazatziki.

Me, I’m sort conflicted by the mixture of chicken and cheese!

Our second visit to Avliya is the result of a rather wonderful spontaneous accident – we’re in Point Cook having picked up a Gumtree comic purchase.

It’s hot and we’re a bit stumped for a lunch location and in no mood for going out of our way – so we plump for Balkan and braving the potentially ugly parking/crowd situation at Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre.

All that proves a breeze and we once again appreciate Avliya’s coolish and secluded location in the centre scheme of things.

And food-wise we do even better – this time taking the route of the aforementioned burek.

They are awesome – the best we’ve had!

We share the standard beef model (above, $15.95), served with a tub of yoghurt, and …

… and the zeljanica ($12.95), which we’re told is stuffed mainly with cottage cheese, some rictotta and a little bit of egg. The side tub of tomato goes just right!

Our goodness parcels make for a superb and lightish lunch.

One day we will journey to Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre intent on trying at least a couple of Avliya’s sweet treats/cakes – they really do look awesome.

But the substantial size of the meals at both our lunch visits renders them a no-go zone for us.

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