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The Mirka Café (now Bistrot Balzac) 1954 (Frenchman Jean Sablon opens Mirka Café, with Mirka Mora centre in dark dress, with friends and Athol Shmith’s wife Bambi in the window)

Courtesy of William and Mirka Mora

The Mirka Café (now Bistrot Balzac) 1954
(Frenchman Jean Sablon opens Mirka Café, with Mirka Mora centre in dark dress, with friends and Athol Shmith’s wife Bambi in the window)

Originally established as the Mirka Café in 1954 by immigrant artists Georges and Mirka Mora, Bistrot Balzac can claim the honour, along with Pelligrini’s, of introducing European café culture to Melbourne. Just as the bohemian cafés that flourished in France had become synonymous with conversations and the dissemination of culture, Mirka Café became the favourite haunt of Australian artists and philosophers. Mirka Mora’s biography, My Life; Wicked but Virtuous, describes the happenings in this social and creative hub of the 1950s in vivid detail – the illicit romances, many dramas and great debates. It also incorporated the display of art in the café. Despite a relocation and a few name changes, the legacy of the Mirka Café lives on in the many coffee houses scattered across Melbourne today.