On a professional level, I have been somewhat ambivalent.
On the one hand, this is obviously a significant western suburbs food story, so therefore of great interest to Consider The Sauce and its readers.
On the other, Consider The Sauce is used to operating in something of a parallel universe to the bubble that is Melbourne’s officially designated “food scene”.
So it would not have surprised me had the opening of Hellenic Hotel come and gone without CTS being involved in any way at all … and that would’ve been fine.
But an email from Danielle Poulos changed all that.
Danielle is the social media manager for the Calombaris empire.
She is also someone with whom I have a previous history – we worked together many times on arts/music stories when I was heavily involved in the Sunday Herald Sun’s entertainment coverage.
That all seems a long time ago for one reason – it is!
But somehow, we have remained in touch … so I was delighted when her email lobbed and our lives once again overlapped.
We very soon after met for coffee, and the best part of 20 years melted away …
But my paramount question remained: Did Hellenic Hotel and those who sail in her want to be OF the west – or were they to be merely IN the west but with hearts residing elsewhere?
With Danielle replying that the former was most definitely the case, it’s down to business we got …
I will continue to take Hellenic Hotel as it comes – but there’s no doubt that having a highly and fondly regarded pal as my point of contact is making a huge difference!
Hellenic Hotel head chef Josh Pelham (right) works with his kitchen crew a week out from opening night.
Hellenic Hotel, 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9393 1000
There is about a week to go before Hellenic Hotel opens to the public – opening night, Friday, June 17, is already booked out – and the air of excitement is palpable.
I get a contact high just by hanging out with Travis McAuley (Hellenic restaurants general manager), Nikki Reid (Hellenic Hotel manager) and Danielle Poulos (Calombaris social media manager) as they give me “the tour”.
For them and everyone else involved, the pressure is on – but there’s a lot of fun and satisfaction to be had, as well.
Travis and Nikki unwrap the new crockery.
The Ferguson Street premises is certainly much changed since I last stuck my nose in about four or five months previously.
And those changes amount to way more than some new furniture and a pretty paint job (mostly white and blue, as you’d expect).
There has been some major infrastructure doings going on here, including installation of a lift and substantial provision of “facilities” and office space upstairs.
The downstairs area – the dining room of the restaurant proper, which will seat about 100 people – is today buzzing with tradies applying last-minute touches and tying up fit-out loose ends.
The place is also buzzing with dozens of newly employed young staff doing training.
Ouzo, wine and cocktail training.
And training in the Calombaris ethos of “philotimo”, “kefi” and “meraki”.
I’m told about three-quarters of the font of house staff of about 25 are locals.
Hotel Hellenic head chef Josh Pelham is involved in the training process, as well.
He’ll be overseeing a kitchen staff numbering about 12.
There will be much overlap, menu-wise, with the Hellenic enterprises in Brunswick and Kew – but each of three has its own special focus.
In the case of Hellenic Hotel, that will be on food emanating from the kitchen’s rotisserie oven.
Upstairs, the bar – seating about 80 people – will sport a more relaxed vibe.
The “bar menu” will basically be the starter menu from downstairs, though bar patrons will be free to order from the full list should they wish to do so.
Up here there will also be a $15 daily special – now that sounds good! – as well as Greek-based music on Sunday afternoons.
Hotel Hellenic will be open every day from noon.
Travis tells me they’re hoping to have this area up and running come summer.
Whenever it does open, the views will be spectacular …
My current take on Hellenic Hotel and the locals is this:
There is, as you’d expect, a high degree of interest.
Much of the interest is of the enthusiastic variety – both from people excited about eating in the new venture and from local businesses wishing, hoping for an all-round boost.
Some of the interest is passive.
And some, a smaller amount, is cynical and even resentful.
Again, this is no surprise and is something of which these folks are aware.
For what it’s worth, they appear to me to be sincere in their desire to engage with the locals – and win over the unpersuaded.
To that end, one of several pre-opening events being held next week has been put aside for them.