Thanks to great reviews and of course the Masterchef effect, George Calombaris’ casual Greek eatery Hellenic Republic has been humming steadily ever since it opened in 2008 – and I’ve only now managed to get there.
A warning: if you want to eat Sunday lunch at Hellenic Republic, give yourself a good 2 months to ensure that you can get a booking. Also note that on Sundays (and possibly other days of the week as well) there is a 2 hour turnaround time for tables. Table-turning is a practice that I dislike immensely, especially as I would like to be able to enjoy a leisurely Sunday lunch, but if stuffing myself steadily for 2 hours straight is the only way I get to eat at Hellenic Republic, then I guess so be it.
Our group of 12 gathered to sample the $55 Trapezi meze sharing menu (which is required for groups of 10 or more). To confirm the booking I was asked to complete a comprehensive list of the guests’ dietary requirements – when they say they cater for all dietary requirements, they really mean it! Gluten and dairy free alternatives were prepared especially for certain guests, and nowhere else have I seen ‘pescatarian’ acknowledged as a dietary requirement.
The Trapezi is a multi-course tour through most of Hellenic Republic‘s menu. I’ve been told it is excellent value for the amount of food you’re served relative to a la carte. It certainly left me full enough that I didn’t need dinner that night.
MEZE — CHEFS SELECTION OF SMALL TASTES
Local and Hellenic olives
Kefalograviera saganaki – a real winner of pan fried salty saganaki balanced with sweet dollops of peppered figs.
Two housemade dips – a rich and smokey eggplant dip and taramasalata without the fake pink food colouring
Seriously moreish warn pita bread
Seasonal salad of cucumber and olives
Rosettes of cured Hellenic meats (oh and the wine is served in shiny red carafes)
Htapodi – octopus doughnuts!
PSARI — GRILLED FISH
Char grilled fish of the day (ours was swordfish) with latholemono, or a dressing of oil, garlic and lemon
Thalassino youvetsi – braised seafood in a tomato-based sauce with tiny rice-like kritharaki pasta and feta
A super-fresh Cypriot grain salad of freekeh, coriander, almonds, raisins and yoghurt
PSISTARIA — MEAT FROM THE SPIT
As you can see, here the amount of food starts getting a little out of control. Wish I hadn’t had so much pita bread at the beginning….
Succulent marinated lamb and roasted chicken. We couldn’t finish a lot of it so it ended up as home care packages. My takeaway container lasted me for the next three days and was delicious sandwiched in pita bread with the cabbage salad.
Hand cut potatoes cooked in olive oil and oregano, presented in a bowl lined with Greek newspaper, a nice touch.
Tzatziki (cucumber, dill, garlic and yoghurt)
A refreshing Lahanosalata, crunchy shaved cabbage salad with an olive oil and lemon dressing.
Unfortunately at this stage we had to be turfed from our table – but the staff were very understanding and packed up a lot of the leftover meats and salad along with our dessert, a colourful selection of fresh fruit including watermelon and strawberries.
Despite the unceremonious end to our meal, I really loved the convivial atmosphere and massive amounts of food served for lunch at Hellenic Republic. Writing this post has made me hungry all over again, and I can’t wait to return.
Hellenic Republic, 434 Lygon St, Brunswick East +61 3 9381 1222