Dine with Dari (in Lockdown) : Bala Sanga

Not to state the obvious, but lockdown sucks. We’re all a bit depressed, and iso life is painfully taking its unsweet toll. 

Bala Sanga was a project born out of the darkness of lockdown that aimed to shed some light during these trying times. Whilst being forced to close as the city deals with COVID outbreaks, owners of the gorgeous little eatery Pretty Little decided to think outside the box and create ‘Bala’, a back alley takeaway sandwich joint in the Balaclava hood. 

Much like the old days in Melbourne, you need to be ‘in the know ’ to find the place. Hidden behind what is usually the busting Carlisle Street (when not in lockdown), Bala is not visible to the naked eye. In fact, it’s so far off, when you’re trying to find it, you wonder if the rumours of ‘the best salad sandwich you’ve had in your life’ are just a fallacy (much like a ‘snap five-day lockdown’ only lasting five days). Hot tip – it’s not. For those lucky enough to be in the current 5-km radius, keep walking, following the signs and you’ll hit it. You’ll also get a hit knowing you’ve just scoped out the latest cool eatery (double kudos for doing it while everywhere is closed).

The word ‘crowds’ once created excitement, but these days, invokes fear. So, safer to say the queue is just a physical distance line of mask-wearing, hungry-bellied people waiting patiently for a filled bread hit. Thankfully however, that ‘crowd’ atmosphere that we knew and loved still exists, standing invisibly but gallantly in-between the 1.5m. 

You’re greeted by Mike and Benny. Despite being in lockdown, they’re happy. Firstly, they’re pretty chuffed they successfully managed to lure you into a laneway (in a non-creepy way). They’ve created a thriving hospitality business in the midst of a pandemic (achieving the near unachievable), and – most notably – they serve you the best freakin’ sanga you’ve had for a very long time. High fives all round (or, these days, elbow pumps instead). 

To keep things simple, there are six sanga options (no subs, no swapsies). On a freezing winter day, the hot ‘Thomo’ seals the deal. Dense dark rye, ruby red kraut, an oozy smoked raclette bursting with lush shavings of bbq beef cheek. Devouring the entire package is a commitment, but one you’re happy to make. On a crisp warm day, the “fresh stuff” includes the ‘salad sanga’. Don’t discount it just cause of the beige title. A colourful explosion of vibrant pickled carrot, powerful purple beets and a bright slice of aged cheddar encased in a fluffy grainy bread makes you feel like you’re on cloud nine eating a rainbow. 

Code Black coffee has limited milk options (skinny fans turn around here), but whatever your usual preference, it would be silly to miss, as much like the rest, it is downright excellent. 

Bottom line: A sanga in a laneway. Thanks Bala. Your simple wisdom puts a much-needed smile back on our lockdown life face.   

Bala Sanga
Rear Laneway, 296 Carlisle St, Balaclava VIC 3183
Open Wednesday to Sunday 7.30am to 3pm
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