• Just one of the delicious morsels on offer at Willsmere Station. (Supplied)
One look at their kunefe should be enough to convince you to visit this Kew all-day café and wine bar.
By
Audrey Bourget

28 Nov 2019 - 11:59 AM  UPDATED 28 Nov 2019 - 11:59 AM

Akin Celik used to work in banking, but running a cafe was his dream. "I even had a commercial coffee machine in my bedroom. My mum wouldn’t allow me to have my coffee set up in the kitchen so the only room was in my bedroom," he tells SBS Food.

He opened his first café in Ringwood East, Melbourne, but returned to his Kew roots, closer to the CBD, at the end of last year when he opened Willsmere Station. "I grew up in Kew, I'm that local that two doors down [from Willsmere Station] is the kindergarten I went to," he says.

The venue operates as a café during the day and morphs into a wine bar in the evening.

The venue operates as a café during the day and morphs into a wine bar in the evening. "I wanted to fill a void we had in Kew: somewhere where people could have a nice glass of wine and chat with friends over a meal. I used to always end up going to Richmond or the city," he explains.

With the help of chef Trinh Le, Celik developed a menu based on their interpretation of the Turkish flavours he grew up with at home.

For breakfast, it means that alongside Aussie café staples like smashed avocado and granola, you'll find cilbir (poached eggs) with labneh, Maras pepper burnt butter sauce and herbed flatbread. "Cilbir eggs is one of the first Turkish dishes documented on paper. Back then, in the villages, it would have been yoghurt and eggs. We've added our own sauce," he explains.

Later in the day, several dishes feature lamb shoulder, which has first been cooked sous vide in a herb rub, before being picked apart and grilled with more herbs, spices and a red wine reduction.

You can add the lamb to the spiced pilav, which is mixed with barberries, almonds, pistachios, herbs and lemon. Or you can have the dish with Australian sardines wrapped in vine leaves. It's a play on sarma, traditionally filled with grains or meat, which were one of Celik's favourite dishes growing up.

Willsmere Station is full of exciting Turkish-Australian fusion dishes.

Another hit is the manti, Turkish beef ravioli with garlic yoghurt, which is also available in a small portion for children. "I used to help my mum…closing those up, it was our weekend thing. I have fond childhood memories of that," says Celik.

But what has become Willsmere Station's signature dish, and a bit of an online sensation, is dessert kunefe. Eaten all over the Arab world, the dessert is slightly different in every country and every home. It's usually baked and involves cheese, as well as string pastry or semolina. Here, Le uses a mix of cheese and kadayif pastry he shapes into a ball, and deep-fries. "It makes it crispier on the outside," explains Celik.

The dish is completed with a scoop of stretchy ice cream from Northcote's Cuppa Turca and your choice of syrup: orange blossom, lemon and thyme, pomegranate or Nutella.

Which one should we choose?!

The grazing menu also has a Turkish-Australian feel with snacks like lamb köfte, sucuk and house-made flatbread next to Australian cheese and prosciutto.

The Turkish drops on the wine list have been a hit with customers who are often unfamiliar with wine from the country. With over 500 varieties of grapes, Turkey is one of the largest producers of wine grapes, and one of the earliest wine-producing areas in the world.

"We always ask our customers what kind of wine they usually enjoy and we try to get them something similar. We’ll offer tastings of the Turkish wine and they quite enjoy it," says Celik.

Willsmere Station is a very good reason for Kew locals to eat out in the area, and even more for the rest of us to visit.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Instagram @audreybourget and Twitter @audreybourget.


Willsmere Station
158 Parkington St, Kew
Tue – Wed 8 am – 3 pm | Thu – Sat 8 am – 11 pm | Sun 8 am – 9 pm


TURKISH TREATS GALORE
The man who changed Turkish kebabs
When Beyti Güler and his father opened a small restaurant in 1945, little did they know it would revolutionise Turkish cuisine.
Visit the Sydney suburb with vegan Ethiopian food, Turkish ice-cream and other multicultural highlights
Flavours of Auburn showcases the 2144 postcode as a diverse dining destination worth travelling for. Bring your appetite.
Comment: What do you mean, you don’t like eggplant?
Your kids love burgers and pasta – but you want to preserve your family's Turkish traditions. Cue the food fight.
Hand-pulled noodles and Turkish pizza: Where to iftar this Ramadan
A guide to where to bask in biryani, falafel, hand-pulled noodles, mezze and sweet treats.
Strong as death, sweet as love: the long rich history of Turkish coffee
An old Turkish proverb perfectly describes the intensity and passion behind traditional Turkish coffee: “Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love”. From marriage proposals to the froth factor, this is a ritual 500 years or more in the making.
The aged care home that serves residents halal food that's as good as an authentic Turkish restaurant
A good news story about an aged care facility - located in Sydney's west - that's catering for the health needs of its culturally diverse residents while also serving tasty meals, worthy of a Turkish restaurant.
Mini Turkish pide pizza

The yoghurt dough base can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for up to a week. 

Why Turkish breakfasts are always worth getting out of bed for
More than a meal, Turkish-style breakfasts are a banquet of sweet and savoury delights. The key word is always 'abundance'.
Turkey’s answer to hot sauce: biber salçasi
Who else to give us the lowdown on this popular Anatoli red pepper paste than famed Turkish Australian chef, Somer Sivrioglu?
Layered Turkish delight pavlova

The pink grapefruit in this pavlova has a lovely bitter flavour that cuts through the sweetness of the meringue and balances a rich meal.