Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hellenic Republic, East Brunswick

This week I haven't had much time to blog- probably because I have been too busy eating... at two of my top ten wish list restaurants. I will start with Hellenic Republic, but make sure you check out my next review, Chin Chin.

Hellenic Republic is one of the several restaurants owned and run by George Colambaris of Masterchef fame. So, seeing how much of a little Masterchef fan I am, this was a pretty cool experience for me. Recently at the Taste of Melbourne Festival, after tasting some amazing food from St Katherines, another of George's restaurants, we signed up for the online VIP type club. Even though signing up to these clubs can be a little annoying due to the spammy type emails, it was on one of these emails that I saw that Hellenic Republic were having a Greek Islands Night event for $100 per person, including four courses and drinks. Yes please! So we booked a table and a couple of months later, off we went to the restaurant/

Now, the only down-side to the entire evening was probably our seating situation. I have no problems with communal tables, and have even had lovely conversations with fellow diners at other restaurants with this style of seating. But the boy and I were the only two diners on a communal table full of Hellenic Republic and Press Club staff. We were sitting next to the sommelier or 'wine guy' for both restaurants, which had me a little awe-struck I must say, and he was welcoming and very friendly. We did feel as though we were intruding on some of the other staff at the table however, and seeing as it was my first time experiencing the food, I did feel a bit dorky sitting at a table with seasoned professionals who had probably eaten there a thousand times- forgive my lack of photos due to this! It would have been different if say, George had turned up and conveniently sat at that table but unfortunately that didn't happen. The wait-staff were very friendly and attentive though, and the head chef even visited us at the end of that long table to ask how our food was.

It was a banquet sharing type situation, and I have never seen so much food in my life!!!

Greek style bruschetta dish, gigante beans, olives.
 The mezze course was preceded by some beautiful sourdough and olives. We were then showered with mezze dishes such as Gigantes (beautiful beans braised in a tomato sauce, I love these!), smoked kingfish (the highlight of the night, this was amazing... they smoke it on site), a Greek take on bruschetta and some chargrilled octopus. Our other favourite was the baked feta with honey and sesame seeds, this was rich and flavoursome. I am planning to try to make my own version of this today! Already we were very impressed!
The seafood course featured a beautiful whole baby snapper where the meat just fell off the fish and melted in your mouth, served with a greek salad and prawn saganaki. The prawn itself was huge and plump and delicious, but the saganaki sauce was a bit bland and it wasn't my favourite dish of the night.

Whole baby snapper
The meat main was huge, indulgent and amazing. We had been able to smell the beautiful aroma of pork belly cooking on the open spit at the front of the restaurant all night, and it did not disappoint. Lovely little medallions of crispy, smoky pork that just melted in your mouth. It was served in a 'do it yourself' souvlaki dish where we were given platters of tzatziki, grain salad, lettuce, pita, fritates (yummy hand-made chips) and the meat and made these lovely souvlaki's with them.

Do it yourself souvlaki with spit roasted pork belly
 By dessert, we were filling very stuffed, but couldn't resist the watermelon salad or the amazing kataifi pastry filled with this amazing salted caramel. I could have eaten five of those little pastries, if only we weren't already needing to be rolled out the door.

Kataifi pastry with salted caramel- amazing!

Watermelon salad- wonderful and refreshing after a heavy meal

In addition to this HUGE meal, for our $100 a head we also got beer on arrival, ouzo, red wine, white wine and a grappa-like digestive. Overall, I was shocked at how value for money Hellenic Republic was. Because of George's fame and its popularity, I expected quality over quantity, not quality AND quality. It would be a challenge to walk out of this restaurant hungry or dissatisfied. Wholesome, traditional Greek food... well worth the stomach ache all that cheese gave me ;)
Yet another wish list restaurant crossed off. Keep an eye on the Hellenic Republic website if you are interested in a similar kind of experience as they are planning to have a gala type evening for a different region of Greece every quarter. I know I will be back to travel once again to a little part of Greece!

L x Hellenic Republic on Urbanspoon

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