If you haven’t come across the likes of Petar Tasic or either of his restaurants yet, prepare to indulge in Balkan flavours and leave completely satisfied – in every sense of the word.
With Madera Kafe Restoran already under his belt, Tasic’s reputation for serving Serbian grilled meats and Slavic dishes is nothing short of hearty. With an extensive menu and an even bigger zest for Balkan cooking, Tasic now turns his attention to latest venture Fabrika by Madera, which is breathing new life into traditional Southeast European cooking.
Tasic’s parents immigrated to Australia as children with their own parents in the 1960s. “I grew up eating Baba’s cooking, which was all about traditional food made with love – a key ingredient – and plenty of it,” he says.
Whether it was the fond memories of cooking and eating sač (a cast iron stew) or pečenje (spit roast) with his father and grandfather, or getting excited about his Baba’s palačinke (crepes) filled with Eurokrem and plazma biscuits, it comes as little surprise that his Serbian traditions and culture really resonate with his customers.
To understand Balkan food, Tasic names the pivotal cornerstones: chargrilled meats, smoky flavours, fresh seafood, homemade bread, and the balancing act of spices and salt – good seasoning could be a dish deal-breaker.
So, after seven years of Madera etching its own following, what does Fabrika bring to the table?
Fabrika means factory in Serbian, and it's exactly that. A warehouse-style eatery with a wood-fired oven paves the way for a wood-fired-inspired menu. There’s low and slow dishes, homemade favourites like ajvar (capsicum paste) and kajmak (a type of clotted cream), kupus (cabbage) salads, cevapi sliders, plus pizza and pasta with Balkan flair. Typically, this menu style is already a hit over in Europe – Fabrika really embraces its Mediterranean-meets-Slavic roots.
After 21 months in the making, Fabrika opened its doors last year in Canley Heights. “I knew that the food had to be slightly more creative and edgy but I was adamant about retaining tradition, culture and originality,” Tasic tells SBS. “The only way to achieve that was to bring a chef over from the region and pair their expertise with my experience and my understanding of local groups and communities here in Sydney along with their palettes and eating habits.”
Hot off the menu is their house-speciality, sač, a stew that is common across Europe but prepared differently in various countries.
“Using an age-old method of slow cooking, a domed clay or a bell-shaped cast-iron pot replaces the slow combustion-style ovens and was most often used by the poor who had no access to proper ovens back,” Tasic explains. Varying daily on the Fabrika menu, you can choose from lamb shoulder, veal or pork options. “We dry rub the meat with various herbs, salt and spices, let it sit and infuse, before adding various vegetables (mostly carrot, potato and onion) before slow cooking it in our custom-made ovens for 3-6 hours.” The end result is melt-in-your-mouth meat that falls apart on your fork.
Like most Slavic households, no matter what the occasion, bread is a staple. At Fabrika, handmade wood-fired bread and crusts tend to dig a little deeper than your average breadbasket. Lepinja is the classic bread option, great with meatier dishes and for easy dipping. There’s a wood-fired Urnebes village crust topped with three kinds of cheese and ajvar, and the Gypsy bread, cooked in pork lard and sprinkled with paprika.
A brightly-lit bar is the centrepiece of the venue and an all-Slavic playlist sets the scene for the feast and drinks. Whether you prefer a nip of rakija (a strong fruit brandy), straight-up spirits, a mojito-centric cocktail or imported European beers – the bar menu has you covered, with customary Serbian coffees and teas on offer too.
“Here in Australia, people have only just scratched the surface of what Balkan cuisine is all about,” Tasic tells. “I really wanted to delve deeper into south-eastern European cuisine, share my love for great food, wine, rakija and Balkan hospitality.”
Fabrika’s menu doesn’t hold back, nor does it skimp – we highly recommend bringing your friends and your eating A-Game – not necessarily in that order.
Photography by Tammi Kwok.
Mon-Wed 5.30pm-10pm, Thurs 12pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-midnight, Sun 12pm-10pm
3/264 Canley Vale Road, Canley Heights (02) 9726 8848