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

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