Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gazi, CBD

I know I keep saying this, but its been a long time between posts. During my recent shuffle of my life, priorities and aspirations (see 'Looking towards 2013') for some reason I have lost a little bit of my motivation for blogging, cooking and eating out. But I am slowly getting my groove back, and have spent the last few months discovering some of the budget gems Melbourne has to offer while I save for my European adventure that I leave for in 3 weeks time.

But, anyway onto topic- a new little slice of Europe in the Melbourne CBD... in the former premises of the Press Club, George Colambaris's new restaurant Gazi. Now this was not technically 'budget' food, but compared to its predecessor, this new Greek 'street food' restaurant was surpisingly easy on the pocket. My foodie cousin and I were able to eat a huge amount of food (seriously, I couldn't eat for 16 hours) for $60 a head with drinks. It seems Colambaris and co have realized that Melbourne's trend at the moment has drifted from fine dining into more 'hip and interesting share food', and thats definitely what Gazi had to offer. I love George's Hellenic Republic restaurant, but I was glad to see that Gazi offered up some really interesting and different alternatives to the more traditional Greek style that HR offers.

Aesthetically, the restaurant is beautiful. It is simple enough that a family could dine there quite happily, but ambient enough for a first date and funky enough for Saturday night drinks. The obvious feature is the roof, lined with hundreds of terracotta pots for a very different and cool looking showpiece.

We started with the option of three dips, and it was so difficult to decide which ones to try. We were extremely happy with our selections. The cauliflower skordalia was jazzed up with smoked almonds and some crispy pork mince and was very creamy and delicious. The hommus was given something extra with some fried chick peas that offered an extra element of crunch. But the dip we both couldn't get enough of was the smoked sweetcorn with crispy chicken skin- simply amazing.

At the waitress's very helpful suggestion, we shared only one of the mini souvlaki's rather than one each- that would have been a potential disaster. These would be the perfect size for lunch with a handful of chips, and great as a pseudo kids meal. We had the chicken version with chips, parsley and mustard. My cousin was very excited to see chips as an addition, something she had loved when eating souvlaki in Greece. The spit roasted chicken was just gorgeous.

For main, we went for the dish neither of us can ever say no to- pork belly. This pork belly serving was huge, more than enough for the two of us (but of course, we let none go to waste!) Two large servings of rich pork belly with crispy crackling, served with white beans and apple skordalia. Amazing.

We felt our salad choice to accompany the pork was perfect with a brussel sprout and quinoa salad. I am only just starting to discover the versatility of the humble old brussel sprout and this salad was a perfect example of how much this vegetable can shine.

Overall, we were very impressed with our first experience at Gazi. These big restaurants can sometimes be a let-down, especially during the hustle and bustle of opening week, but these guys are doing very well and I would happily recommend this to my fussiest, budget strapped friends. Simple but interested Greek street share food, done very well. The only thing missing was a sighting of Mr Colambaris himself!

Gazi on Urbanspoon