Brunswick East, 3057
03 9381 1222
I have never been to Greece. My Godmother is Greek and makes fabulous kourabiedes. So I feel like Greece is still part of my identity. Greece is something like Hellenic Republic, so I am told. Set up to reinvigorate, traditional Greek cuisine, George Calombaris created this popular restaurant with the disclaimer that the food is “not the same as your mother’s or mine”. It is home-style cooking with a difference, fresh ingredients and a trendy setting. My hopes were high.
M and I arrived early on a Sunday night after trying several times to book. We were slotted in to the 6:30-8:30 session. At this point, M would like me to write that the staff were unfriendly (almost snobbish) when she called to book. Being seated at the side of the restaurant, I felt like I was in a gourmet fish and chip shop rather than in Greece.
We ordered several dishes to share (as recommended by the waitress who was much more pleasant than the one on the phone) – the saganaki with peppered figs, grain salad, potatoes and moussaka.
The saganaki with figs looked impressive. It was brought out on a hot plate so that the cheese remained soft – there’s nothing worse than cooled, hardened saganaki. The figs were dried then rehydrated. It sounded enticing but was not. Too many overpowering flavours had been forced together: overly sugary figs, salty cheese, finished off with a peppery sauce.
The grain salad was delicious with freekah (a cereal derived from green wheat), parsley, lentils, pumpkin seeds, almonds and currents with a scoop of yoghurt on top. The salad was an enjoyable mix of flavours and textures.
The moussaka was extremely cheesy with finely sliced potato, eggplant and zucchini covered by a generous layer of smoothly blended sauce, topped with cheese and baked till golden.
I love baklava and theirs was an interesting take on the old favourite. The honey drenching the crushed nuts and pastry was thick. The spices were powdery.
My expectations of Hellenic Republic had been high. Reviews and friends had claimed it to be “awesome” and “the best Greek food in Melbourne”. I had expected the food to be excellent, instead I found it to be good. What’s the verdict on Hellenic Republic reinvigorating Greek, home-style cooking? Well, you’ll have to wait until I’ve visited Greece before I can tell you that.