The best Greek restaurants in Sydney
Jonathan Barthelmess has long been one of Time Out’s favourite chefs. We sang his praises back at Coast in 2008/2009 when he was doing his elegant, restrained Italian food and then again when he opened Manly Pavilion. Now he does Greek food and we couldn’t be happier. And our best advice for approaching this high end eatery is "don’t order everything." You will leave Apollo uncomfortably full. Instead, do the Full Greek, a tasting menu that's all the stuff you’ll want to order off the menu and exactly the right amount to eat.
Peter Conistis has some sort of mystical way with pastry. His spanakopita sees tissue-paper-light pastry supporting a deliciously salty mix of fetta and spinach. And lightness is definitely a theme at Alpha. Check out the soft little dolmades filled with preserved lemon and almond and the loukoumades – sweet and moreish honeyed-doughnut puffs. This restaurant, on the old Hellenic Club site, is absolutely packing them in, night and day.
Have you ever wondered what’s behind the closed blinds of this long-standing Greek restaurant just off Newtown’s main drag? We sure have. Which is what made us book a table at Steki’s on a Friday night, and we have no regrets about our choices. Steki is trapped in time, specifically on the financial front, but also it’s been a few years since the last lick of paint or an upgrade of any kind. They’re still charging mid-90s prices for their classic Greek food and the booze is outrageously affordable - the $30 bottle of Lazanfanis red from Peloponnese is a straight-shooting people pleaser.
First up, it’s all about the bread: fluffy rounds of fresh pita, scorched lightly on the grill. They're filled with slices of juicy pork or chicken – just like in Greece – carved straight off the vertical spit. There’s a smattering of salad: ripe tomato wedges, red onion, parsley and a slick of tzatziki, but mostly it’s one helluva meatfest. They add a couple of chips inside as well, traditional-style. It ain’t pretty eating but that’s half the fun. The pillowy-soft pita soaks up all the juices from the meat. And back to those chips. Joined with the bread, they offer outrageously good carb-on-carb action.
If cheese is your kryptonite, wait until you discover haloumi fries. Say what? You heard us. We’re talking thick cut batons of haloumi cheese deep-fried until golden brown. Where can you get it? Head to Yiro Yiro, yeeros shop and cheese lover’s dream house. You can also get the haloumi plate and savour a squeak-fest of pan-fried cheese. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon for maximum zing. Need more cheese? Get the hot chips with feta. That’s a pile of chips with a blizzard of crumbled feta for that extra salty hit. Even the hot food cabinet is likely to hold a cheese pie or two.
Forget those fancy new yeeros joints. The Yeeros Shop has been keeping it old skool since 1976. That means hand cut chips cooked to order (adjusted to soft or extra crunchy if you ask nicely) wrapped up in butchers paper for takeaway. Yassss. The menu includes old-fashioned hamburgers, steak sandwiches or good ol’ yeeros meat on chips aka the Halal snack pack. The lamb yeeros is what everyone’s ordering though, crispy fatty lamb bits jammed into grilled Greek pita bread with salad. Get the small chips and laugh with delirium at what passes as extra large in most other takeaways.
Meet Medusa, the Greek restaurant with a lot to give. It's in the heart of the CBD, offering fresh simple food in a casual yet polished room. Owner Peter Koutsopoulos works the room, serving jokes and backslaps along with souvlaki and haloumi. The room's mostly filled with blokes in suits eating lamb and drinking red wine, but it's not just a place for corporate canivores. Start with fava Santorinis – a smooth puree of chickpeas dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. It's not hummus, but it's not far off.
If you’ve never tried goat before, this is your best introduction. Kleftiko is roasted baby goat: hunks of meat sprinkled with salt, pepper and oregano and then slow-cooked in the oven for three hours. Dig your fork past the crisp layer of fatty skin and you’ll find meat that is soft and tender. Head to the Cyprus Community Club's Aphrodite Restaurant on a Friday night, where kleftiko is a weekly special served with a side of lemony roast potatoes.
Sheep's heads - you either love ‘em or you're downright revolted by the idea of pulling the well-done brains and eyeballs out of a skull that still has teeth. There's not much meat on it but what there is, is incredibly flavoursome. All that intramuscular tissue stands up to a culinary caning. But we're obviously not dealing with our sheep skull in the correct way - while we're picking at the meat with forks, the table next to us are dislocating the thing like surgeons. Or hit men. It's not all skullduggery and Retsina - there's plenty of other stuff on the Corinthian Rotisserie menu that isn't served with its own teeth.
More restaurants for your bucket list
New restaurants are often in the spotlight, ready for their Instagram close-up. But Sydney is also home to a host of long-running venues that are still at the top of people’s dining hit lists – hell, Time Out has been writing about them from our very first issue, back in 2007. These establishments have stuck to their mission statement, offering great food with polish and personality.