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Salt, olive oil, vinegar - Hellenic Republic

We went to Hellenic Republic to check out what the fuss with George Calombaris' new casual dining Greek restaurant, dubbed the "Jetstar version of the Press Club".

 

My highlight of the night was a silky smooth taramosalata, the famous Greek cod roe dip, but it's not pink. Instead it was milky white with the consistency of a stiff marscapone. The taste was sublime! There was quite a bit of cod roe in there to give it the nice metallic tang which reminded me of the spoonfuls of cod liver emulsion! Maybe that's his trick? It is the same George who served Ribena, another childhood memory, with a game bird, which I forget. But, I'll never forget the sauce!

 

Compared to that, the smoky eggplant puree was almost a pedestrian melitzanosalata, but a very posh and refined one, so was the tzatziki flecked with more than a few sprigs of dill.

 

Cumin seemed to be the star of the cold items, featuring in both the roasted beetroot salad and the smoked lamb. I'm not sure either needed such a level of spice, especially since the smokiness of the lamb didn't need a supporting actor.

 

The oozy Kefalograviera Saganaki was another fav. Served with peppered figs and a wedge of lemon to take the edge off the salty chewy cheese.

 

Next came the grilled ocean trout, succulent and smoky from the wood grill. Add a splash of tangy lemony latholemono and it was a magical dish! There was also a horta with loads of lemon juice and olive oil which seemed to counter any bitterness in the endive/chicory leaves.

 

The Yiouvetsi was a superb little "pasta" dish with little rice-shaped pasta, succulent prawns and strips of squid, all bound by a rich tomato sauce laced with lots of fennel. Yum!

 

When the lamb off the spit finally came out, it was met with ooohs and aaahs as the fragrance seemed to give us all an extra stomach! Tender juicy bits of lamb had the most wonderful lamb flavour without being greasy like a giros after midnight! The flavour almost seemed like mutton, but it was too tender for that. And the chips, or rather, patates, were fried with their skins on just the way i like it. To balance it all, a nice crisp Fasoulakia, blanched French beans with crumbled feta and toasted pinenuts.

 

Then came dessert! Out came the Loukoumades, the Kleftikom the Baklava and a fruit platter. I also got a strong Greek Coffee, metrio / medium sweet of course, and Kevin got a frappe, which was mighty tempting in a chilled glass.

 

I was a bit disappointed at the Loukoumades at the Press Club bar, so I wasn't expecting light clouds of crunchy dough on the outside with the lightest almost souffle-like interior of these Loukoumades! By George, I think you've done it!

 

Kevin was very impressed with the Kataifi and so was I. We could both tell that, sitting on top of the shreds of pastry was a semolina custard topping. The custard had vanilla, the black seeds gave it away. But, there was an elusive flavour hidden within. Was it rose-water? Perhaps it was mastic? As it turns out, it was mastic, most commonly found in the Easter bread tsoureki. I had a mastic flavoured custard at Ottoman recently too!

 

Since we initially booked for 12, our banquet menu ran a bit like this:

Group Trapezi Menu (for 10 or more people) AUD70/AUD65 with/without dessert. Sparkling and still mineral water, teas and coffees were included.

 

Meze & Salads

Horiatiki Salata - Village Salad / Greek Salad

Patzari - beetroot roasted in cumin served with yoghurt

Dips (taramosalata, melitzanosalata, tzatziki), Olives

Kefalograviera Saganaki with peppered figs

Toursi Pickled Vegetables, Mussels with fennel, Dolmades

Kapnisto Arni - smoked leg of lamb

 

Thalassa

Grilled Ocean Trout - served with horta and latholemono

 

Magirefta

Yiouvetsi - prawns and squid with orzo pasta

 

Kreas

Arni Kalamaki Lamb skewer - comes with patates

 

Frouta

fruit platter

 

Dessert

Baklava Yianniotiko - Baklava from yiannina

Loukamades - Greek donuts, Attiki honey

Ekmek Kataifi Pagoto - Soaked Kataifi, cherries and mastic icecream

 

All in all the food at Hellenic Republic was good traditional Greek food made with top-notch ingredients. Was it worth AUD70? Well... someone has to pay for the brand :)

 

Hellenic Republic

(03) 9381 1222

434 Lygon St

Brunswick East VIC 3057

www.hellenicrepublic.com.au/

 

Reviews:

- Hellenic Republic, by Larissa Dubecki, Epicure, The Age, February 12, 2009

- It's all Greek at Hellenic Republic, by John Lethlean, Executive Style, Sydney Morning Herald, March 11, 2009 Calamari, kalamata, Calombaris. It's all Greek and all good at Hellenic Republic.

- gourmettraveller.com.au/hellenic-republic-melbourne-resta... Stepping inside does not quite equate to entering a portal to the Aegean coast, although if you answered to the name of Onassis and enjoyed cruising the Greek isles in boat shoes and linen trousers you'd complement the design well.

- www.eatalmostanything.com/2009/01/lunch-hellenic-republic... saganaki with peppered figs - this was deliriously good

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Taken on April 28, 2009
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