The Hellenic Republic- the best Greek food in Melbourne.
Historically Melbourne is rich in its Greek and Italian heritage. Many migrants in the 50s made the boat ride to the end of the earth in search of a better life for themselves and their families. The Greek and Italian communities brought with them their traditional food and drinking habits, which luckily have flourished and grown to help make Melbourne one of the best foodie destinations in Australia. Their traditional foods, such as souvlakis, pizza, pasta, coffee and wine, have become ingrained in the food psyche and are now regular commonplace meals.
One of the best ways to experience high-end gourmet Greek food in Melbourne is to visit The Hellenic Republic restaurant by George Calombaris (one of the judges of Australia’s Masterchef). There are two locations one in Kew, the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, and the one I went to in Brunswick East in the northern part of the city. This is a well established restaurant that is well renowned for its quality food, sophisticated decor and for honouring George’s Greek heritage.
The menu is well suited to long grazing lunches where you can order various dishes, such as dips, salads, meats or breads, and enjoy a sumptuous afternoon. The staff here are very helpful in guiding you through the menu so that you order the right amount of food and as well as a varied selection. One waiter suggested half serves of dishes to accommodate my table of two and my desire to try as many options as possible, and he was completely correct! We ordered the perfect amount.
We started the lunch of with warmed pita bread and a serve of the most luscious tzatziki dip. I usually try to steer clear of tzatziki because I hate having post meal garlic breath, but I knew it was a hopeless cause against an entire meal of Greek food!! To my pleasant surprise the tzatziki was not very garlicky and instead was thick, creamy and powered by the freshness of the cucumber. We quickly devoured the sizeable dish!
Then the main meals were arrived and boy did we order well!! First up the Hellenic Republic served up the best spanakopita I had ever eaten! (and I eat A LOT!!) Spanakopita is a spinach and feta mixture wrapped in flakey filo pastry then baked to have a crispy outer and soft centre. The flavour combo was spot on! The butteriness of the pastry was balanced well with the saltiness of the cheese! I would come to eat here simply for this dish alone!
Two meat dishes were selected and we were suggested half serves of both. The lamb shoulder Arni Sto Fourno was a must eat here. It was slow roasted to a just pull apart textured that still retained its bite. The chicken on the spit Kotopoulo Psistaria was marinated in oregano and garlic. The Spit gave it a subtle smoky flavour. I LOVED the chicken!
Beetroot is my favourite vegetable so I couldn’t go passed ordering the beetroot salad Patzarosalata! The earthy beetroot was dressed in a creamy smokey yogurt sauce and topped with pepita and pistachio seeds. The salted pepitas were a surprising addition that I absolutely loved that gave a hit of spice to the dish!
The traditional Greek style salad Horiatiki was perfection- simple ingredients prepared carefully to create a winning combo. With chunks of ripe tomatoes, baby cucumbers, black olives, thickly sliced red onion, green pickled chillies, capers, feta cheese and herbs.
There was one pickled kind of leaf in the Greek salad that gave amazing flavour to the whole salad. Unfortunately I don’t know what the leaf is called but would love to know! I also enjoyed the untraditional addition of the pickled green chillies which were medium in heat, and gave the dish a bang in flavour and tang. Yum!!!
By this stage we were pretty full, yet the promise of Greek donuts Loukoumades helped me push through into dessert!
At this stage I left the table to touch up my makeup, and returned to find my fella demolishing the plate. As I put one to my mouth he said ”It’s not going to taste how you think it would!” which made me confused. I was expecting was a sugary coating and then a fluffy doughy centre, not the exquisite citrus hit of flavour that it delivered! Amazing!
The thing that impressed me most about the Hellenic Republic was the wine list. I had never come across wines from Greece (Shame on me!!). I was delighted and intrigued to see a wine list that featured only wines from that area. I had a glass of the 2014 Skouras, Moschofilero from Peloponnese and the 2014 Mercouri Estate ‘Kallisto’, Assyrtiko Robola also from the Peloponnese. Both were absolutely exquisite!
The Hellenic Republic is the perfect spot for a lazy long lunch or a glass of wine and some mezze!
A must eat in Melbourne!