I was sad to hear that one of my local faves St Katherine’s had gone. Fortunately the site has been transformed into Hellenic Republic Kew and given that I’m a fan of the original Brunswick edition the change is not such a bad thing.
I think St Katherine’s and Hellenic Republic are branches of the same tree anyway. The food is very similar – generally Greek with a broader Mediterranean influence – the service is fast, friendly and welcoming towards families and the atmosphere is lively and convivial. There’s always lots of chatter and plate sharing and kids running around.
The only real difference I can see is that the famous St Katherine’s popcorn chicken (KFC) and other American diner-style dishes are gone and the formerly cavernous St Katherine’s has now been split into two separate dining spaces with the entrance running up the middle. Dividing the space lends the restaurant a more intimate, buzzy air and I like it.
Another thing that St Katherine’s and Hellenic Republic have in common is amazingly good value lunch sets. On weekdays you can order Yia Yia’s Tapsi – a tin metal platter filled with the kind of food apparently a Greek grandmother would serve. I consider it the ‘best of’ Hellenic Republic – even if I was ordering a la carte I’d go straight for these dishes.
That means olives, some deliciously salty taramasalata and fluffy char-grilled pita, some rotisserie meat (juicy chicken in our case) and floury roast spuds, some of George Calombaris’ famous nutty, sweet and healthy Cypriot grain salad with pomegranate and yoghurt on the top and a sweet treat at the end.
It’s a bento box for the senses and is a tasty, healthy and filling lunch for the budget price of $25. We actually had to take away our baklava because we were too full – the lady fingers filled with cashew and with a hint cardamom were perfect for afternoon tea though the filo pastry was not so flaky by that time.
I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bargain that the lunch set at Hellenic Republic….except if you follow them on Facebook and nab one of the $12 lunch takeaway packs which they advertise on their page! We took some home for our dinner that night (just can’t enough of that grain salad, I’m telling ya). The pack included some grilled salmon, crunchy triple-cooked chips dusted with oregano, more of that grain salad and Risogalo – a creamy rice pudding with a swirl of salted caramel and crumbled with shortbread pieces and pistachios. What’s in the lunch pack changes regularly but follows approximately the same formula – some sort of protein, a side dish and dessert. It’s substantial and again we left the dessert for another night.
I imagine that while Kew locals have mourned the passing of St Katherine’s they’ll be very pleased with the new Hellenic Republic set up. With excellent food at prices like these, I’m sure it will be a local favourite.
Hellenic Republic Kew, 26 Cotham Rd, Kew 03 9207 7477
Lunch, midday-4pm Mon-Fri; 11am-4pm Sat-Sun;
Dinner 5.30-till late seven days