Platinum Cafe, 36 Macaulay Road, North Melbourne. Phone: 0497 849 411
Platinum Taxis has been in residence at Macaulay Road for many years.
From No.36 operates a wide range of vehicular services – not just your humble cabbies but also airport and hotel pick-ups, limos and all the resources that drivers need to do their jobs.
The current Platinum Cafe set-up, however, has been in-house for just a few months.
Bennie Weir practises his psycho stare; Nat Stockley photographs food.
After our very good pal Nat Stockely realises things have taken a Turkish turn at Platinum, we waste no time in convening a North Melbourne lunch date.
Bennie and I are hoping for good, cheap fast-food, perhaps something a little more exotic, perhaps an alternative to the Embassy Taxi Cafe in terms of midnight-hour munchie outings.
Sure, the menu (see below) does include burgers, toasties and the like.
But wow – we find a whole bunch more than that!
The joint is being run by Nadia and her friend Ozen (both pictured at top) and also Lev.
Nadia knows her way around Turkish food, having worked for a Deer park eatery of that genre for more than a decade.
But what she and her pals are turning out in North Melbourne is mostly not Turkish restaurant food.
Instead, Platinum Cafe is providing home-style cooking of the kind your favourite Turkish mum prepares.
On the day we visit, we’re told to “forget” the specials board (see below) – I would’ve certainly opted for the lamb roast.
Instead, we three converge on the bain marie and proceed to enjoy a mighty feast.
My plate stacks up thusly …
Very good Turkish rice with orzo.
Patlican kebab (eggplant kebab) – one of the best eggplant dishes it’s ever been my pleasure to devour, the slippery, delicious eggplant mixing it with lovely lamb cubes.
Mucver – fritters of spud, carrot and egg that are wonderfully chewy.
Sulu kofte – Marble-size balls of cracked wheat (quite like gnocchi) and chick peas in a rich soup based on a lamb stock.
The cracked wheat balls are more tender than they appear but along with the chick peas constitute a meal in themselves and would probably be better enjoyed as such.
The soup, however, is great.
The plates of Nat and Bennie are similar save for the addition of a vege-and-chicken dish with cheese sauce of Nadia’s own devising.
Platinum Cafe also boasts a range of dolmas, including stuffed capsicums, and sarma such as vine leaves.
We get a plate of the latter and enjoy them very much.
They’re served how we like ’em – cold.
They’re quite delicate and have a nice smoky flavour. Nat even reckons there may be meat of some sort involved though Nadia tells me that is not the case.
Also provided to our table is a very good salad of finely chopped vegetables, tomato, pickles (both cuke slices and cornichons), olives and fetta – such a shame it barely gets a look in as we explore the rest of our meals.
Our meal deals – including our plates, the stuffed vine leaves, the salad and cans of drink – costs us each an awesomely cheap $17.
Nadia tells me about the 90 per cent of the drivers who come in are of Turkish extraction – sounds very high to me! – but that there are also drivers from Greece, Italy and East Africa. From all over, really …
For all of them, I suspect, the Turkish homecooking served at Platinum Cafe is both welcome and somehow familiar, no matter from where they hail.
Nadia also warns us that when we return, the line-up of home-style dishes will almost certainly not be the same.
We wouldn’t have it any other way!
Platinum Cafe is open from 6am-8pm on week days and from 8am-5pm on Saturdays.