THE tailor referred to by The Tailor’s Workshop is Kocho Naumov, a Macedonian-born gentleman who migrated to Australia in the 1950s. He operated his own tailoring service on Beaumont Street, Islington in 1960 and it ran for a decade, servicing the men of Newcastle with quality clothes and fine workmanship.
Over 40 years later, the next generation of Naumovs (Kocho’s son Bobby and daughter Suzanna) are running their own little slice of Macedonia in the form of a cosy cafe, at the same location, with the same attention to detail and tradition.
The cafe is tucked away with dark (rather small) wood tables and chairs, exposed brick and more of that dark wood lining the walls and ceiling. One wall is lined with family photos, and with only around 12 tables inside, it has the feel of being inside the Naumov’s home. There are a few more tables outside. Now that winter has arrived, pack a jacket and enjoy the sunshine.
The menu (breakfast and lunch) is packed with Macedonian flavour and influence. The balance leans on the side of savoury over sweet - things like ajvar (a red pepper relish), feta, paprika and meat loom large.
Their signature breakfast dish is the scrambled eggs – you can choose to have either tomatoes, chillies or feta blended through them – or opt for the works. Ask for it hot or not, but bear in mind, the heat does pack a punch. A side of kolbasi - smoked sausage - is juicy and meaty and kransky-esque. It's butterflied so it fans out like flower, adding some visual flair to the meal. A pile of hot buttered toast comes on the side. This dish is oily and rich and warming.
The savoury French toast is thick and soft in the middle, crunchy and battered on the outside. It comes with the saucy ajvar relish - in all its luminous, glistening, orange red creaminess. Silky, salty feta and pickles add bite and variety. I add on some avocado for colour and softness against the feta. The bread seems deep fried rather than the eggy seared French toast I'm used to. But it works in this instance with the fresh ajvar and feta. It’s so hearty and rustic, you forgot that it’s a vegetarian dish.
If you venture in for lunch, you can try some traditional dishes like sarmi (pickled cabbage leaves rolled around a beef mince and rice filling), piperki polneti (red peppers stuffed with rice, ground meat and spices, then roasted), turli tava (a stew of smoked pork, okra, potatoes, eggplant, ground meat, peppers, carrots, rice and onion) and the classic musaka (minced meat, potatoes, onion, vegetables and a smoky paprika sauce).
Be sure not to leave without trying one of the delectable Macedonian sweets, or at least take one home for later. Of course there’s baklava on offer, but some of the lesser-known desserts are equally wonderful. Talumbi are a definite favourite - fried rolls of dough that are soaked in a sugar syrup. Each bite actually squelched. The tikvenik is a crustless pumpkin pie which is eggy and light and whipped to perfection. Slatki is a sweet shortbread biscuit, filled with a thick jam, and perfect for nibbling with a cup of their smooth, almost buttery Steadfast coffee. It’s mild, but still has plenty of body. A strong cup of tea pairs also well with the bold dishes.
I haven’t been exposed to much in the way of Macedonian cuisine, but I found this meal comforting with exotic touches. This isn't a green bowl-organic chia seed-kale smoothie kind of place, and all the better for it. The special of the day is lamb’s fry. But don't get me wrong, there are plenty of vegetarian options. The reasonable prices (less than $20 a dish) reflect the straight-forward menu. This is no nonsense and honest. A true family heirloom.