This Greek stalwart has been around for almost a decade and it’s aegean gracefully
Hellenic Republic in Brunswick East will be ten years old in 2018. Simply surviving in the choppy waters of the restaurant business is achievement enough; but thriving to the point of spreading your DNA to outposts in Kew, Williamstown and, soon, Brighton suggests serious hospo know-how, and a visit to the Brunswick mothership provides the evidence to back it up.
The ability to conjure the right atmosphere is key, and Hellenic Republic feels warm and festive, hitting that smart/casual sweet spot. Families and friends break pita against a backdrop of lobster-basket lampshades and a stunning blue-and-white mosaic-tiled communal table. The energy of the open kitchen is palpable and the smell of the lamb and chicken rotating on the spit is a siren song.
No one is reinventing the wheel here: the menu is full of simple, fresh flavours; portions are Olympian; and they arrive quickly. You’ll barely get your order in for a glass of the Yianni Ramnista Xinomavro’ before BAM! Your spit-roasted chicken has arrived. The glistening meat is sweet and succulent, fragrant with oregano and garlic and a squeeze of lemon adds a bright citrus spark.
While traditionalists may tut at the addition of the kaffir lime leaf to the wondrous strips of battered calamari, it’s a subtle addition that works. Aleppo pepper flakes add chilli pep and colour, and a nifty swipe of boozy ouzo mayonnaise seals the delectable deal.
And while we’re on the subject, you should drink some ouzo and something off the all-Greek wine list, and you should ask the staff for assistance if you’re in unfamiliar terrain. They possess both the knowledge you need and the genuine desire to assist you.
Baked prawns (head and tails intact, plus whiskers) are cooked in crushed tomatoes and topped with crumbled fetta so that the tomato sauce bobs with prawny flavour and the cheese adds an extra layer of land-based saltiness. As a side, sautéed horta (wild greens, including kale and spinach) is satisfactory but the refreshing cabbage coleslaw, that’s zippy with herbs, is more memorable.
Owner George Calombaris’s mum says a sweet tooth should be nourished, and the risogalo (rice pudding) supports up her position. Creamy vanilla bean-flecked rice gets crunch from the bashed shortbread crumbs and pistachios topping, and plenty of gooey sweetness from the perfectly-judged salted (but not overly) caramel sauce.
Calombaris has been very busy this past decade, building an empire and hosting Masterchef. What’s surprising is that his flagship’s excellence has not suffered. It’s as fresh and as relevant as ever – may it sail successfully through another ten years odyssey.
|Venue name:||Hellenic Republic Brunswick East|
434 Lygon St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu 5.30-10pm; Fri-Sun noon-4pm, 5.30-10pm|
|Transport:||Nearby stations: Anstey; Brunswick|