Considering cousin trouble and geek hubby are visitors to Melbourne, they’re certainly covering more of Melbourne’s food landscape within their short 5-10 day visit than I’m capable of in months. Just prior to this visit, they’d gone to Gourmet Escape in Western Australia, where they listened to (and tasted) the philosophies from the likes of Rene Redzepi, Matt Wilkinson, David Chang and George Calombaris. Jealous! If I had enough annual leave, I’d have eagerly joined ranks.
But continuing with my cousin trouble whirlwind of Melbourne eats, Hellenic Republic had been on her wishlist since 2011, and we finally made it there this time round.
This bright and boldly Greek Taverna was opened with George Calombaris at its helm. Here, he’s pushing for a family-like focus on Greek warmth and hospitality, served alongside with traditional Greek cuisine.
I have to say that they’ve completely nailed good hospitality on its head here – service was stunningly genuine and friendly. Especially our waitress, Carly, who never stopped smiling, and was more than happy to tailor the portion sizes of our dishes (into half or small serves) when she realised how much of the menu trouble wanted to sample.
Pita – Warm pita bread 4.50 | Taramosalata – White cod roe dip 6.00 (Sm)
Fava – Truffle scented split pea dip, shallots, capers 5.50 (Sm)
So we embarked on our Hellenic journey with warm pita and lovely dips, all in small portions so as to save our bellies for more dishes to come!
Haloumi - Grilled haloumi, Byzantine dressing 14.00
Next came what trouble described as the best haloumi she’s ever had. To me, it was meaty chewy with a nice smoky flavour from grilling. The grape and parsley gave a nice sweet counterpoint to its saltiness.
The next wave involved a series of fresh seafood, prepared simply, but before we get into that, I’ll cover the salads that came with it.
Lahanosalata – Cabbage salad, balsamic, honey, kefalograviera cheese 5.40 (Sm)
Kipriaki Salata Dimitriakon – Cypriot salad of grains, pulses, nuts, yoghurt 6.60 (Sm)
Patzari Salata – Beetroot salad, cumin yoghurt, coriander 6.60 (Sm)
We liked the Cypriot salad of grains the best, it had a delightful mix of lentils, currants, mint, pomegranate, parsley and almond slivers. Aside from that, my visitors enjoyed the other salads, while I was pretty equivocal about them, probably because I’m not that big a fan of cheeses in salads and half wished the beetroot wasn’t pickled, although that’s probably how the Greeks make it.
Htapodi sti skara - chargrilled octopus, shallots, capers, olive oil 18.00
This beautiful octopus dish was one of the meal’s highlights. Succulent with great flavour and texture, the gentle chargrilling was so tasty! Trouble jokingly wondered whether they massage the octopus to make it so tender.
Grilled Moreton Bay Bug 20.00
Equally stunning were these grilled Moreton Bay bugs. Love it when seafood is sourced fresh and cooked simply.
Kalamari me Myrothika - Grilled calamari, parsley, garlic, lemon 22.00
While this calamari dish was good, we still preferred the octopus dish more.
Garithes – Chargrilled tiger prawns, lemon, garlic, star anise salt 24.00
This was the only seafood dish that wasn’t as good. We weren’t keen on the seasoning (star anise salt) that went with the tiger prawns, and it was also slightly overcooked.
By this point, we’d been eating for nearly two hours. Our cheerful waitress then shifted us to the bright courtyard at the back of the restaurant so that we could continue with dessert while our table inside was given to the next scheduled group of lunchers.
Salata Karpouzi – watermelon salad, feta, mint, rosewater, toasted almonds 6.00 (1/2 Serve)
Pretty as it was, this dessert did not taste as exciting as I’d expected. Maybe if they infused it with something other than rosewater…
Ekmek Kataifi Pagoto - Kataifi pastry, cherries, custard, mastic ice cream 14.50
Much more interesting were the traditional desserts, like this crisp-crunchy kataifi. It was so good that I was able to overlook my phobia against overly sweet desserts (Greek desserts are always sweet anyway), hence I really enjoyed it.
And don’t ask me what’s mastic ice cream. We collectively couldn’t pinpoint its flavour profile, but liked it!
Loukoumathes - Hellenic Doughnuts, honey, cinnamon, walnuts 6.50 (Sm)
Again, stratospheric sweetness levels aside, we absolutely loved these Greek donuts. They were freshly hot with fluffy (half-baked) moist insides.
We enjoyed just about all of the dishes at Hellenic Republic and the prices were reasonable. The wholesome, incredibly friendly service also made our meal that much nicer. Special thanks to Carly for taking care of us so well.
While it took us sometime before we finally made it here, both cousin trouble and I suspect it won’t be long before we’re back for more.