Sunday, January 30, 2011

Local Hero - Cafe Sarabella

Cafe Sarabella is a wonderful little cafe providing home-style Indian meals, a small range of sweet treats, tea, coffee and chai in the Victoria Street Mall. It's been there for nearly five years now, having opened not long after we moved to our current place in Coburg.

There are many good-value Indian restaurants in Brunswick and Coburg however, I think this is one of the best. As well as being very accommodating to special dietary requirements (almost all of her dishes are gluten-free), Sara offers an range of Indian curries and other well-known Indian classics such as Biryani, and sometimes you will find her take on Asian dishes such as laksa. Standard curry dishes such as chicken and lamb curry are generally always available and on the revolving menu you will find salmon, goat and rabbit curry. These are all available in take home packs too.

I think between us we've tried most of Sara's dishes now and they've all been delicious. On our last visit there S tried the lamb curry. This was served with dahl, rice flecked with poppy seeds, and vegetables tossed in cumin and mustard seeds (the vegetables change on a daily basis too). The lamb curry with potatoes was rich and tasty, cooked so that the lamb was succulent and tender. A very satisfying meal.

I'm a big fan of single pan rice dishes such as risotto, paella and biryani. So I almost always find myself ordering her lamb biryani, although I will have the goat curry when it's available. What I particularly like about the biryani is the cloves that are flecked throughout it, providing a lovely warmth to each mouthful of food. Mmmm cloves...they're simply not used enough in cooking these days. It's also spiced with cinnamon sticks - double delicious.

As are most of the meals at Cafe Sarabella, the biryani is served with some yoghurt and home-made chutney on the side. Often Sara's regular customers will provide her with fruit and vegetables that then form part of a meal you may be eating. A box of cumquats received just before Christmas became a delicious chutney to be served with meals and sold to customers. I bought a small jar and yes, it is delicious.

Cafe Sarabella offers a small range of gluten free cakes such as cranberry, sticky date and orange almond. All are made using almond meal and so they are wonderfully moist and dense. At Christmas time gluten free fruit Christmas cakes can be ordered. We've ordered these for the past two years now and they are absolutely delicious, full of plump, brandy soaked fruit in an almond meal cake.

The other thing of special note is that Sara blends, roasts and double grinds her own chai tea. This process takes her six to eight weeks and it results in a superior chai. I'm not a regular drinker of chai but will often order one at Cafe Sarabella because the taste is so good.

Cafe Sarabella is a cheery place enjoy a drink and meal. There's a slightly boho look to it with hand-written daily menus taped up on the counter and the mix and match cushions and table clothes. Sara is a friendly and welcoming host who always has a smile and hello for her customers and a sympathetic ear. The intimacy of the cafe often results in customers engaging in a lively chatter around the two indoor tables, and a smile as you pass them a week or two later as you are walking down the street. With only a very small kitchen behind the retail counter, comprising a four burner hob and a small bench top oven and a strong commitment to using quality meat, fish and produce, Sara is turning out some of the most flavoursome and satisfying dishes around Coburg.

Some other reviews to consider:
Words and Flavours

Cafe Sarabella
1 Victoria Street
9354 5239

Cafe Sarabella on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday Evening at the Kent Hotel

On a balmy Melbourne summer evening, such as the one we had last Friday, a drink and a meal at the pub is a pleasant way to end the working week.

Having arranged to pick up a
Flexicar on Friday evening after work, just across the road from the Kent Hotel, I thought it a good opportunity to try dinner there. However after making a booking at the hotel and then reading reviews of it, it was with some trepidation that I approached the hotel. I shouldn't have been. We thoroughly enjoyed our meals.

The menu at the Kent Hotel is quite extensive, offering a large range of entrees and main meals, desserts and specials board listing several extra dishes, including a seafood platter for two ($45) on the night we were there. To start with we ordered chicken polpetti and the fried saganaki with a gherkin and rocket salad and horseradish dressing.

My entree arrived as three large, chunky polpetti studded with pinenuts in a tomato sugo. I liked these but they didn't have the 'wow' factor for me. Don't get me wrong, they were good but I have very high standards when it comes to polpetti and often make them at home. Polpetti need to be absolutely amazing for me to swoon about them.

It's hard to go wrong with fried saganaki with its salty, chewy and squeaky taste and texture. However I found the side salad of gherkin, rocket and horseradish dressing a slightly unusual, even a weird combination (gherkins and horseradish, together?). I think S. enjoyed it though, even if he did say the horseradish dressing was somewhat underwhelming.

Our main meals were the stars of the evening. I ordered the parmesan crumbed veal scallopine and received a generous serve of three pieces of succulent and moist veal, cooked to perfection. These were sitting on a bed of steamed and sliced kipfler potatoes and a colourful mix of fresh, crunchy green and yellow beans, finished with butter, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Overall, I thought this was very impressive for a pub meal.

S. ordered the beer-battered Rockling with shoestring fries and a pickled onion and chilli salad. He was served two pieces of perfectly cooked Rockling in a crispy, light beer batter (did they use rice flour for the batter?) that was still moist and tender. The shoe string fries were good and crunchy, and the tartare sauce had a delicious tang and a decidedly home-made look about it. The only let down was the ordinary salad said S., but he did not let that get in the way as he tackled the entire plate with relish!

The Kent Hotel is somewhere we wouldn't hesitate to go to again. The meals were delicious, generous sizes and very good value, service was attentive and friendly throughout the evening. With a sunny aspect overlooking Curtain Square, it's a pleasant pub in which to enjoy a meal.

What we had:
Fried saganaki, gherkin, rocket and horseradish dressing $14
Chicken polpetti, tomato sugo $9
Beer battered fish fresh market fish (rockling), shoestring fries, pickled onion and chilli salad $22
Parmesan crumbed veal scallopine, kipfler potato, green & yellow beans, chargrilled lemon $27

The Kent Hotel
370 Rathdowne Street
Carlton North
9347 5672 ‎

Kent Hotel on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lime Posset with Lime Confit - Cookbook Challenge 2

The doors are open, and the surfeited grooms
Do mock their charge with snores. I have drugg'd their possets
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die.

Macbeth, Act II, Scene ii

Lady Macbeth may have used poisoned possets to drug the guards guarding Duncan's door but this version is only going to win you friends, not do away with them!

'What is a posset?' I hear you ask. In the time of Shakespeare it was a milk drink soured with wine. What we know as posset today is a dessert more akin to syllabub then a curdled or soured milk drink. It is a pudding made of cream and citrus juice, which to acts on the proteins in the cream, causing it to set.

Again this fortnight's theme, citrus, offered endless possibilities and I struggled to settle on a single recipe. I scoured many recipe books until I spied this one for a lime posset with lime confit from
Maggie's Harvest, which in and of itself is a beautiful book to hold and read because of the gorgeous embroidered cover, superb photography and text. I was intrigued - what was a posset? It looked relatively simple and didn't use too many ingredients and it contained lime. Well, anything with lime in it has got to be good in my book, so I enthusiastically decided on the posset!

Recipe: Lime posset with lime confit
Cookbook: Maggie's Harvest (2007)
Author: Maggie Beer

550ml cream (I used whipping cream)
150g castor sugar
Finely chopped rind of 2 limes
1/2 cup (125ml) lime juice, strained

Lime confit:
660g castor sugar
4 ripe limes, scrubbed and thinly sliced

Combine the cream, sugar and lime rind in a saucepan, then bring to the boil over high heat and boil, stirring, for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.

Once the cream mixture is cool, whisk in the lime juice to aerate the mixture as much as possible. Continue whipping until the mixture begins to thicken. Pour into six 100ml capacity cups or moulds, then chill in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Now I have to confess, I made the recipe twice because the first time I over-beat the cream mixture and curdled it! I'm not a fan of whisking, so I decided to beat the mixture using a hand-held beater. Being a little uncertain about how long I should beat the mixture for, and expecting it to whip up to the same consistency as cream, I decided to look for some guidance on the web. As I was beating away at the mixture and tapping away at my iPad trying to get a video to work, I averted my eyes from the cream mixture for 30 seconds...only to look back and see that it had started to curdle. Lesson learnt. I did a bit more research and here are my tips to ensure success:
  • Chill the mixture properly. Once cream has been heated it needs to be completely chilled if it is to whipped successfully.
  • Don't over-beat the mixture. It only needs to be aerated and not whipped! The second time I beat it using the hand-held beaters only until very soft waves could be seen forming behind the beaters. Some recipes don't even whisk or beat the mixture.
  • Plan to make this recipe a day ahead. The you will get a much firmer set by leaving it overnight.
To make the lime confit, preheat the over to 150 degrees celsius. Combine the sugar and 750ml of water in a saucepan to make a sugar syrup, stirring over a low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the liquid reduces to a syrupy consistency.

You can make the confit with with limes or lemons, just make sure that the lemons are thin skinned (such as Meyer lemons). Maggie Beer recommends using limes that are really ripe with skins that have turned yellow.

Lay the lime slices in a baking dish so they are just overlapping. Pour over the sugar syrup and cover with baking paper, cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour.

Remove the the foil and baking paper and return to the oven until the syrup is reduced and the limes are caramelised; this will take another 30 minutes to 1 hour. Cool and refrigerate.

Serve the lime posset topped with a little of the lime confit. Any leftover lime confit will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 1 month...if it lasts that long! I have to say that I found the lime confit to be absolutely delicious and have been frequently dipping into it. It has the most amazing tang and intensity of flavour that I find absolutely addictive. It's wonderful for drizzling over vanilla ice-cream, a topping just for adults!

You can find out what everyone else is up to this fortnight here .

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Garlic Pork with Sprouts & Noodles - a great recipe for summer

On hot, humid evenings such as those we've been having this Melbourne summer, I want to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen. This dish is one I enjoy making on such nights. It's light and tasty as well as being a doddle to make. The noodles can be softened in cold water, the vegetables are crushed or chopped, quickly stir fried and stirred through the dish and cooking the pork is the most arduous task, you could even cook it outdoors on the BBQ if you liked. By using rice noodles and bean sprouts this dish is light yet surprisingly satisfying and the dressing provides a bit of zing and freshness.

The recipe comes from
Easy Vietnamese Style Cookery (1995), from the Australian Women's Weekly cook book series, before they went all glossy and food pornish. I love the older books in the AWW series. I think many Gen Xers learnt to cook from these. I know I certainly did. The Italian Cooking Class Cookbook was one of my first 'adult' cookbooks, received as a gift when I was a teenager. I still have that cookbook, a bit battered and stained from use. I always return to these books when I want a recipe that is 'do-able' - clear instructions with ingredients I am likely to already have in the pantry or fridge. Did you know that Bill Granger taught himself to cook from the AWW cookbooks? Perhaps that is why his books are so well loved.

200g rice vermicelli noodles
2 tbls peanut oil
450g pork fillets
5 cloves of crushed garlic
3 spring onions, sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemon grass
3 cups (250g) bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped Thai basil (I sometimes substitute regular basil)

1 1/2 tbls sugar
2 tbls fish sauce
1 tbls soy sauce
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice
1 small fresh red chilli, seeded & sliced

Cook the noodles according to packet directions or alternatively place them in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and stand for 5 minutes. Rinse noodles under hot water and drain well.

Heat half the oil in a griddle or frying pan, add the pork and cook until browned all over and cooked as preferred, turning occasionally. Remove from the pan and cool, then slice thinly.

Heat the remaining oil in a wok or pan, add the garlic, shallots, lemon grass and sprouts, stir-fry until fragrant. Remove from the wok and cool. Combine noodles, pork, bean sprout mixture in a bowl and mix well.

For the dressing, combine the all the ingredients in a jar and shake well. Stir through the salad.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Local Hero - the Abruzzo Club

When friends visit us in Melbourne and want to eat Italian, we steer them away from Lygon Street, as they generally suggest, and take them to the Abruzzo Club in East Brunswick. It's a gem. We like it so much that we held our wedding reception there! It may not have the glitz and newness of its larger sister in Epping but it has the heart and soul of an old-style Italian restaurant and serves exceptionally good Italian food with an Abruzzese influence.

The 'Gran Sasso Restaurant' at the Abruzzo Club is one of our favourite local restaurants and we enjoyed a very fine meal there last Tuesday. One dish we always order when we go there is the home-made gnocchi.
It's the best in Melbourne. Yes, that's a big call but I stand by it. Light and fluffy, it's like eating clouds. I first tasted their gnocchi when I pinched a piece off my then three year old niece's plate. An ignoble action to be sure but it was the start of a love affair that hasn't ended yet.

A close up picture to show the deliciousness of the gnocchi!

The lady who used to make the gnocchi retired nearly two years ago. Apparently she had arms of steel. She would come in weekly and make a huge batch for the restaurant. We only found out because we had a run of visits to the restaurant in which every time we tried to order it we were told 'they had run out'. Then one day a waiter let it slip that the gnocchi maker had retired. We were nervous. When would it return? Would it be as good? Finally it returned and while I have to say while there is a slight difference in the quality, it's still good, damned good. It's still the best.

On Tuesday we shared an entree serve of the gnocchi with napoli sauce. The gnocchi were as light as ever, covered in rich and smooth sauce that was without any acidity. A great start to the meal.

Just so you understand how delicious the gnocchi is - it's all gone

For my main meal I ordered the Coniglio, rabbit braised in a white wine sauce served with steamed broccolini, potatoes and polenta. This was a generous serve of rabbit covered in a vegetable reduction. It was delicious and flavoursome, a reduction of finely chopped vegetables that was a perfect complement to the rabbit, which itself was tender although surprisingly the meat got a bit chewier closer to the bone. I enjoyed this dish very much.


There's always selection of specials available at the Abruzzo Club. How many will depend on the day you dine there. As we were there early on in the week there was just a couple and S. chose one of these, the rib-eye steak cooked medium rare. It came out with the standard range of vegetables, including the delicious baked potatoes. The steak was cooked to perfection with the monster piece of rib eye tender and succulent, helped no doubt by having the bone left in.

Rib-eye steak

We really enjoyed our meal, as always, and will be back again in the near future. The outside of the Abruzzo Club itself is unattractive, a squat non-descript two storey building constructed some in 1970s (I think). However do step inside, you won't be disappointed. There is a moderate wine list, mostly from the Taylor Ferguson range and some Italian wines. The menu has recently been simplified and I am a little bit disappointed by this as some of my favourite dishes, such as the spatchcock, have gone but the quality of the food has not suffered in anyway. The restaurant offers authentic and very good quality Italian dishes that you should be finding on Lygon Street, Carlton, but won't.

The Gran Sasso Restaurant is often host to large family gatherings although you are just as likely to find a solitaire diner there being attended to by one of the friendly waiting staff. If Aldo is working he is sure to amuse the kids with his range of tricks and funny noises. I haven't seen him for while though, I hope he hasn't retired.

Entree size gnocchi with napoli sauce $18.90
Coniglio $30
Rib-eye steak $28.50

Abruzzo Club
377 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
9387 5955

Abruzzo Club on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Baked Peaches with Limoncello Cream - Cookbook Challenge 1

Ok. So the cookbook challenge is back on for 2011 and you can read about it here. The first week's theme is stonefruit.

As there are so many great recipes for stonefruit that I struggled to settle on one. In the end, the humid Melbourne weather swung me towards something simple that didn't require too much fussing around in the kitchen.

This one is from the cookbook In the Kitchen, which we have used quite frequently since S. received it as a birthday present last year. I highly recommend this cookbook. We've found the recipes generally quick and tasty, and able to made with items you will have in your fridge and pantry. Great for busy people. It's not pushing the boundaries in any way but it does feature many contemporary classics and should become one of those classic cookbooks that is remembered fondly.

Recipe: Baked peaches with Limoncello Cream
Cookbook: In the Kitchen: More than a thousand recipes for every day (2009)
Authors: Allan Campion and Michele Curtis

3 egg yolks
55g (1/4) cup caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
zest of 1 lemon
250ml (1 cup) milk
250ml (1 cup) cream
60ml (1/4 cup) limoncello
6 ripe peaches (I used white)
plus additional caster sugar

In the first step you are essentially making a custard. It's very easy.

Beat the egg yolks, sugar and flour together until pale and creamy. Put lemon zest, milk and cream in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Pour the boiling milk onto the egg/sugar mix and whisk to combine. Return to the saucepan and gently bring to the boil, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat, stir through the limoncello, transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the peaches in half and remove stones. Place on a baking try skin side down, sprinkle with additional caster sugar and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the peaches soften slightly and turn golden brown (if the peaches are firm they will need a bit of extra time in the oven.

Remove peaches from the over, place 2 peach halves on each plate and, add a spoonful of limoncello cream to each half and serve.

I struggled to photograph these once I put the limoncello cream on top, as I completely overloaded them with it and the peaches were hidden. Regardless, they were delicious, a light dessert that is well suited to a summer's night. The limoncello provides a subtle tang to the custard, which in turn provided a creamy foil to the fresh, lightly roasted peaches.

If you're interested in following all the participants' cooking exploits throughout the year, you can find us

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Delicious Summer Tabbouleh

The deliciousness of the cypriot grain salad at Hellenic Republic inspired many to try and replicate in their home. Our friends came up with this version and brought it along to a BBQ we hosted at the beginning of December. It was a big hit. I requested the recipe and have been making almost weekly, it's so delicious, too delicious to keep to myself so I am sharing the recipe with you.

Due to my fructan intolerance I have been substituting the same amount of pearl barley for the burghol and omitting the onion. The pearl barley makes for a very wholesome and tasty tabbouleh that has a great chew to it, it's quite a substantial and filling salad. It is fantastic served with some grilled chops for a quick dinner. I've been making a batch of it on the weekends and taking to work for lunch.

I remember eating my first tabbouleh salad as a teenager in the 80s. It was quite a new salad and unusual to Australian palates then, quite exotic! Tabbouleh recipes are now ubiquitous but this is a fantastic recipe and I do encourage you to try it, using either the burghol or the pearl barley.

2 bunches of parsley
2 large handfuls of mint leaves
100g fine burghol
450g ripe tomatoes finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of cinnamon
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Gather the springs of parsley into small bundles so that the leaves are packed together at the same level. Place each bundle on your chopping surface, grip the upper part of the parsley firmly with one hand and use the other to cut off the stalks with a sharp knife. Chop the rest of the parsley and place in a mixing bowl. Chop the mint and add to the parlsey.

Rinse the burghol, leave for a few minutes in the sieve then add to the parsley and mint. Add the tomatoes. Sprinkle the onion with the salt, black pepper and cinnamon and rub with your fingers (the salt and pepper reduce the sharpness of the onion). Add this with the lemon juice an oil to the other ingredients. Toss, taste and adjust the seasonings. If the tabbouleh is not moist enough, mix in about 1 1/2 tablespoons of cold water.

Roasted pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) sunflower seeds and sesame seeds can also be added to the salad. Use about 3 tablespoons of papitas, and 2 tablespoons each of the sunflower and sesame seeds and add them to a dry frying pan. Roast seeds over a medium heat stirring continually until seeds brown and start to pop. You will need to keep a close eye on them to ensure they don't burn! Add seeds when ready to serve to prevent them going soggy.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Coburg Cool - The Post Office Hotel

Battered potato moons

The hot and humid weather really isn't any inducement for either of us to cook, so it was to the Post Office Hotel that we went for dinner on our way home from work last Thursday. We've enjoyed a few bar meals here since they opened in around the middle of last year but are yet to try the restaurant. I really enjoy the atmosphere of the Post Office Hotel. It attracts a diverse crowd from people with young children, extended families taking their Nanas out for lunch, local shopkeepers and residents as well as the hip blow-ins. Well, what do you expect when Tex Perkins is one of the co-owners. Let's hope it stays diverse and welcoming.

The bar menu is not extensive offering six mains, sides, a couple of desserts and one or two daily specials that are chalked onto the blackboard over the comfortable, curved chesterfield. However what it offers is an interesting and delicious middle eastern twist on your classic bar meals. We've now tried most of the mains now and last week it was the scotch steak with green beans, nuts and sour cream, and the POH parma with rocket and onion salad that we went for.

The scotch steak was lovely and tender, generously topped with a green bean salad full of dill, parsley, hazelnuts and pinenuts. The tang of the sour cream provided a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the steak. 'Full of flavour?' I hear you ask. Yes it was. Deliciously so.

The parma was a cut above the usual pub chicken parmagiana, with a nicely-sized chicken breast covered in a variation on the classic Napoli sauce, melted cheese and served with a tasty side salad of rocket and a tangy pickled onion. The parma rested on some sliced cucumber and those delicious potato moons (more of which below). In terms of taste, the chicken was moist, with not too much sauce and just enough cheese to cover the chicken without smothering its flavour.

To complement our mains we ordered a side of battered potato moons. These are very moorish, having had spices added to the batter, either the middle eastern seven spices or ras el hanout, definitely some cinnamon in there, which gives them a lovely, fragrant aroma. They always go very quickly.

We both ordered the only sweet dish on the menu - sticky fig pudding with hot coffee syrup. This was an excellent dessert, far above what you'd expect to find on a bar menu. The density of the pudding was light but satisfying and perfectly complimented by the coffee syrup, which added a touch of sweetness without over-powering it. A small dish of sour cream on the side provided a bit of cream and tang. It was very good.

The serving sizes at of the bar meals may be considered a bit small by some. I have read some complaints about this on reviews elsewhere. Serving sizes do seem to have increased since we started coming here, that is, there is more salad and vegetables put on the plate, meaning that you don't have to order sides to bulk the meal out. However, the quality of the ingredients used and the resulting dishes more than make up for any complaints about serving size.

One other thing I would add about a bar meal at the Post Office is that it is not necessarily a cheap night out. The cost of all the dishes, plus a couple of drinks, can all add up very quickly. It is worth it though if you are looking for something above the ordinary in your pub meal.

Some other reviews to consider -
Where's the beef?

Scotch steak with beans, nuts and sour cream - $20
POH Parma with rocket and onion - $20
Battered potato moons - $10
Sticky fig pudding - $15

The Post Office Hotel
229-231 Sydney Road
9386 5300

The Post Office Hotel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A birthday lunch at Hellenic Republic

Hellenic Republic was the setting for a special birthday in October last year, so yes I've posted this review quite a while after but nonetheless, the memories of the wonderful food we had there are still strong.

It almost didn't happen, as somehow the booking made in August was not there when we went to confirm a couple of days before (it's interesting to note from other reviews that some others have had booking issues too). Quite a frustrating experience when a big group of local and interstate guests are involved and alternative arrangements have to be made at short notice. However, when a large booking cancelled a table was found for us. A big thank you goes out to
The Abruzzo Club for acting as an alternative venue, just in case Hellenic Republic didn't come through.

We've been to Hellenic Republic several times now for both breakfast and lunch, and everytime we have been impressed with both the food and the service. It's a loud, rambunctious venue where you can sit back, relax and have fun catching up with family and friends. Special dietary requests are accommodated without hesitation and it's a great spot for families with children. For breakfasts we have ordered from the a la carte menu and lunches have been from the Trapezi menu, the group menu. Overall, the Trapezi menu has never really disappointed us and it certainly is value for money.

So for the birthday lunch it was the Trapezi menu that we had. Our meal began with some dips, which were served with pita bread, and the kefalograviera with peppered figs, which is one of my favourite dishes from Hellenic Republic. A squeaky and salty cheese that is fantastically off-set by the sweet but not cloying figs. The recipe for the peppered figs can be found

Kefalograviera with peppered figs & Melizanosalata - eggplant dip, dressed with red wine onions

Our dips included the melizanosalata (pictured above) and taramosalata (suprisingly I didn't take a photo for a dish I like so much). Suspend whatever understanding of taramosalata you have from the garish, salty and pink stuff you find in supermarkets. This taramosalata is white, smooth and understated, with a depth of flavour that doesn't rely on salt. It's an eye-opener. You will never want to purchase the supermarket product again after you try this.

The flavour of the selection of Hellenic style cured meats (pictured above) was delicious and the colour vibrant and inviting. Again, the flavour was understated and not reliant on salt as most supermarket meats are.

Grilled fish of the day - Swordfish

On previous occasions when we've had the trapezi menu the grilled fish has been salmon. On this occasion it was, to my delight, swordfish. For whatever reasons I am unable to successfully cook swordfish at home. The fillets we were presented with were perfectly chargrilled, firm and succulent, and simply flavoured with salt, pepper, red onion and parsley so that the flavour of the fish shone through.

Cypriot grain salad - freekah, coriander, almonds, lentils and yoghurt

Although I didn't try this salad (I had requested a gluten free meal) it was, apparently, delicious. It was described to me as being 'full of herbs that provided a hit of freshness in the mouth, with a wonderful, course texture'. The recipe has been sourced and will be provided in a later blog!

Htapodi salata - pickled octupus, shaved fennel, confit potatoes

The Htapodi salata was delicious. A perfect balance of sharp and salty flavours and soft and chewy texture in the mouth.

Oh dear, the roasted carrots. I've forgotten their correct name. They were delicious, seasoned with a little fennel, dill and served on yoghurt.

OK. So these look fabulous, but for my mind they were a big disappointment (but the only one on the day). Scallops completely drowned in a pea sauce that did nothing to enhance their flavour, topped with breadcrumbs and bacon. Mine were absent the bread crumbs, for reasons of fructan intolerance, and looked quite sad, so I won't upload the photograph. What is pictured is what everyone else received. S assures me they were tasty but I'm not sure that the breadcrumbs would have made that much of a difference.

When the plates of lamb and chicken come out that means the small plates are over and the main meal has begun. I always eagerly anticipate this part of the meal but am usually full by the time it arrives. The meats are spit roasted in an open area towards the back of the building, visible through a window. The plates arrived with lemon cheeks to be squeezed over the meat, which was tender, succulent and flavoursome with plenty of herbs.

Maroulosalata and Tzatziki

The much maligned iceberg lettuce is the feature leaf of the maroulosalata, which is basically a lettuce salad jazzed up with spring onions, dill and oregano. I quite like it and think that it makes a flavoursome, simple accompaniment to the spit roasted meats.

Tiganites patates - hand cut potatoes cooked in olive oil with oregano

The chips are delicious, simply flavoured with oregano and salt. My only complaint is that we were given only two bowls, and with children present it simply wasn't enough.


To be quite honest by the time the loukoumathes arrived I was quite full and my capacity to fully appreciate them was long gone, and we still had cake to come. From what I recall on other occasions, the loukoumathes (greek doughnuts) are light and crisp and topped with honey and walnuts. Given that they were all eventually eaten, I can only assume that they must be good!

We had a wonderful birthday lunch with friends at Hellenic Republic and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to people. The service was friendly and attentive on the day we visited. Every request was attended to. The service staff even had a chat to us about where we got the birthday cake from. Besides the booking mix-up, my other complaint would be about the steep 'cakage' charge - $4.00 per head. It really is a bit over-the-top.

The mention of George Calombaris' name or his restaurants seems to induce an immediate and quite intense response in people - they either love or loathe him and his restaurants. Personally, I'm in the former camp. I'm a big fan of both Press Club and Hellenic Republic, and I'm not quite sure why people don't like him or his food. Perhaps he's over-exposed. Perhaps there's still a bit of the old tall poppy syndrome at play, perhaps it's because he's a Greek-Cypriot Australian from Chadstone made good. Perhaps they just don't like his food. When I question people about the basis of their dislike most are unable to articulate it. So who knows what is going on really. I think his restaurants are fabulous.

Trapezi Menu
$58 per person

Hellenic Republic
434 Lygon Street
East Brunswick
9381 1222

Hellenic Republic on Urbanspoon