Rib and curry sensations

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Santorini, 1 Parker Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 8520
podatpid, 638 Barkly Street, West Footscray. Phone: 0404 904 900

Never order ribs from a non-specialist barbecue joint.

This is the emphatic lesson rammed home to Consider The Sauce through tedious confrontations with mediocrity.

Or worse.

But in the case of Santorini, we figure this is a rule worth ignoring.

Observing on FB the ingenuity and passion with which the whole Santorini crew is confronting the virus brouhaha is truly heartening.

That includes free delivery – yes, even as far as Yarraville – and specials events such as “souvlaki night”, free donut nights and more.

So order ribs, we do.

What we get is simply sensational.

Great lemon potatoes and heaps of them.

Greek coleslaw, and heaps of that, too, with just enough onion to add a little bite and quite a lot of feta, which crumbles into the dressing.

What a magic mix!

Given the superb accompaniments, and the fair asking price of $25 per person, we’d be quite unfazed to get a single big beef rib each.

Unfazed, but disappointed.

But no!

We get two of the beefy blighters each.

And – you guessed it!  – they, too, are very, very excellent.

And tender.

And delicious.

To order from Santorini online, go here.

 

 

Another of our faves, podatpid on Barkly Street in West Footscray, is also having lots of fun and satisfaction in keeping on trucking.

The cafe is selling a select range of top-notch grocery items, including bread.

And pick-up/take-home meals.

After having two encounters with it, we’ve become particularly fond of their pork-and-pineappple curry.

A really big serve for two cost us a fine $22.

It’s not so hefty in the pineapple department – it being outweighed by sweet potato.

Now that’s something that normally have both of us wrinkling up our noses in disgust because of its similarity to pumpkin.

But here, mixed in with the rich brown (and mild) curry gravy, it’s fab.

And our curry boasts a really good amount of tender pork chunks.

 

 

This particular meals ends with a sweet treat from yet another of faves – Olive Oil & Butter on Somerville Road.

Baklava for two – with yogurt. Greek, of course.

Hunkering down at home like everyone else, we’ve actually been cooking/eating healthily and affordably to a quite amazing extent.

So it’s been good to enjoy such great food from outside.

Even if we’ve not been sitting inside.

 

Happiness delivered

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Eleni’s Kitchen + Bar, 28 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9943 4233
Safari Restaurant, 159 Union Road, Ascot Vale. Phone: 9372 7175

Once these crazy times have abated, perhaps one of the lasting legacies will be a determination by many restaurants to continue taking care of their own home deliveries, leaving the icky apps out in the cold.

Wouldn’t that be great?

We have watched online as small businesses across the west have re-imagined their operations with passion and ingenuity – it’s been awesome to observe!

We are adhering pretty much to the “stay in your village” ethos, but even in and around Yarraville there is plenty from which to choose – and we plan on doing so about once a week in the coming months.

First up, a special Saturday night treat, is Eleni’s!

And because it’s a treat on the heels of a week of excellent home-cooking, we go all in and order the $63 meat deal for two. The toasted pita bread costs us an extra $2.

It’s all terrific, superb – and much more voluminous than the above photo indicates.

What we get: Lamb and chicken gyros, loukanika (sausage), lamb cutlets, Greek rissoles, pork kalamakia (skewer), tzatziki and salad.

The meat is cooked dead right and we love the different flavours and seasonings.

Hot? No. It’s warm – and that’s fine by us.

If we get around to Eleni’s again in the coming months, we’ll likely opt for one or more of the home-style dishes such as gemista, moussaka or pastitso.

Check out Eleni’s takeaway/delivery menu here.

 

 

When it comes to our meal from Safari, we do succumb to the use of a delivery app.

Safari was our Somalian hot spot several years before we became fully entranced with the Somalian eateries of Flemington.

Because of “stay in your village”, we have no idea how most of the Racecourse Road places are faring – or even if they’re open.

Though we note with happiness that #SomaliEats IS now up and running, offering pick-up and delivery – though I doubt that delivery option would stretch as far as Yarraville!

But such is our desire for a taste of Somalia, that we do the Door Dash thing with Safari – and it is absolutely outstanding!

We both opt for the lamb federation meal – fragrant, cardamom-studded rice AND pasta, heaps of tender lamb on the bone, some salad and veg.

No soup, but that’s no biggie; one banana between the two of us and tubs of chilli sauce and “Safarinaise”.

Really, this was just as good as having a Somalian feed in a restaurant, though without the vibe and colour!

The cost?

A mere $18 each.

Happy Greek arrival

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Skewered Taverna, Shop 13, 71-79 Kororoit Creek Road, Williamstown.

For a while there, a few years back, Rifle Range shopping centre in Williamstown was the site of frequent visits by Team CTS.

Those visits were all about dropping in to partake of the fine food – pizzas, pastas and more – as proffered by Pizza d’Asporto.

Once a new Pizza d’Asporto shop opened right around the corner from us in Yarraville, Rifle Range was no longer a target for us.

But maybe a return visit to the Willy Pizza d’Asporto is in order – there’s been a reconfiguration there that makes the place more like a restaurant proper than a mere takeaway place with some seating.

Plus, you know – pizza, pasta, any excuse.

But today we’re back on Kororoit Road to check out the centre’s newest arrival – Skewered Taverna, which has slotted into the premises once housing the local charcoal chicken shop.

 

 

The place is set up – and feels – like a cross between a quickie souvlaki joint and a more formal Greek restaurant, something that is also reflected in the menu (see below).

When quizzed about what elements of the food line-up are made from scratch in house and those brought in, we appreciate the honesty shown us – tzatziki yes, taramasalata no; dolmades no, but moussaka and gemistes (stuffed capsicum) yes.

That knowledge guides us, to some extent, in our ordering.

 

 

OK, OK, I confess –  I am photographically challenged when it comes to capturing the simple magic of a souvlaki wrap.

This is an unlovely depiction of Bennie’s lunch.

It’s called “The Village” ($13.50) – and it’s everything he wants in a souvlaki.

Well-cooked and seasoned lamb off the spit, tomato, onion lettuce, tzatziki and chips wrapped in thick, Greek-style pita bread.

We reckon the Skewered souvlaki list is going to be a VERY hot ticket in this neighbourhood.

 

 

My meal is something very different.

I go for the made-in-house moussaka ($23) and am delighted in every way – especially after my most recent moussaka try had been disappointing.

I get the same chips, pita bread (grilled and oh-so-moreish!) and tzatziki as Bennie, along with some good Greek salad.

The moussaka itself is home-style Greek cooking marvellous – a big serve, rich, creamy, meaty, comforting and delicious.

For many more stories, go to considethesauce.net.

 

 

Ripper meal, $15

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The Brotherhood Yiros + Grill, 99 Buckley Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 6318

It’s the same conversation every Saturday – very enjoyable it is, too.

Finish kung fu in Carlton, head in a vaguely in a westerly direction and discuss what to have for lunch.

This week, Bennie is pumping for Somalian in Flemington.

I’m not much in the mood for detours, let alone review material; home is calling.

So we settle on somewhere around Seddon, with parking to be the deciding factor.

As a fall-back option, Bennie suggests – as I know he would – Brotherhood.

I’m fine with that – I love their food.

But.

Two yiros for us two.

Chips on the side seem both excessive and essential – but we always order them anyway.

And two cans of fizz.

All that stacks up at about $40.

That’s fine for such good food.

But this is not a restaurant – so we end up eating on the footpath.

I don’t mind that – but it does sometimes make the $40 admission fee seem a bit steep.

But as we approach the famed yiros outlet, Bennie points out a sign that changes everything – our lunch, our day and quite likely future Saturday lunch arrangements.

 

 

In an investment in drumming up some brisker lunch business, Brotherhood management has introduced a special deal – one yiros, side of chips and a can of drink for $15.

Oh, yeah!

Our kind of deal.

The various posters say the deal will be around until the end of October, but we receive a strong hint it may be of longer duration.

Even better, we’re told a permit has been gained for some tables on Buckley Street, so a higher level of dining comfort is imminent.

 

 

As it turns out, this Saturday feed is the best we’ve had here yet.

The chips are so good, crunchy and hot that we’re grinning and eating simultaneously.

Even the chicken salt fails to dampen by glee.

When it comes to the yiros wraps, happiness turns to outright giggling on both our parts.

Maybe it’s because we’re among the day’s earliest customers, but our yiros are stuffed with the most wonderful lamb – much of it crunchy, crisp and salty.

Oh my – so very, very fine.

Obviously, in the CTS family we talk and think a lot about food.

But in this case, our constant celebratory post-meal chatter lasts all the way along Victoria, Charles, Gamon and Fehon streets and until we’re home.

According to their FB page, the Brotherhood crew serve lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

 

Sweetness!

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Theo’s Greek Cakes, 11 Fosters Road, Keilor Park. Phone: 0434 099 450

We are delighted to herald the arrival of new Greek baking emporium on the smallish shopping strip on Fosters Road in Keilor Park.

Theo’s has all your sweet Greek dreams covered at great prices.

Parking is no problem.

And it’s simply a cool place to be.

 

 

We suspect most customers treat it as a shop, taking their goodies home.

But for eating-in purposes, the place is set up in simple cafe style.

 

 

Theo’s is very much about the sweeter side of life, but there are limited savoury options available.

We love our slices of spanakopita ($6).

Rich and flavoursome in a home-style way, they eat bigger than they look.

And at a place in which we would’ve been unsurprised about being presented with plastic plates and implements, we are very happy to have our lunch accompanied by real-deal unplastic gear, along with water.

 

 

For dessert, Bennie opts for this profiterol creation ($5).

He enjoys it, but perhaps not as much as he’d been hoping – likely because the chocolate is not the dark, more bitter kind he likes these days.

He plainly envies my politiko ($5, top photo).

And in that he’s right on the money – as this is superb.

It’s bit like a heftier Greek version of tiramisu, the base of syrupy semolina cake topped by a layer of cream and plenty of powdered coffee.

It is wonderful – and so healthy, too!

Our $4 cafe lattes are a fine foil for all this sweet heaven.

As an added bonus, a delicious trek to Theo’s can become a one-stop outing that includes, a few doors away, Frank’s Supermarket, a happy business a bit like a scaled-down version of Altona Fresh or Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick.

Though, sadly, it is closed during our Sunday visit.

Theo’s joins the D’s Souvlaki is building a whole new food vibe at Keilor Park.

Long may they both prosper and the trend continue.

 

Expanded taverna

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Olive Oil & Butter, 196 Somerville Road, Kingsville. Phone: 9315 1060

Before there was Eleni’s, Meat The Greek or Brother Hood, there was Olive Oil & Butter.

Yes, the renaissance of Greek eateries in Yarraville and nearby suburbs was spearheaded by this Somerville Road institution.

We’ve done two stories on it, but they’re getting old now.

And in the meantime, Olive Oil & Butter has become a regular for us, but mostly for takeaway coffee and treats.

Eating in?

Not so much.

Time for another look?

Yes.

Because we feel like it for a post-kung fu Saturday hoot and lunch.

And because it’s worth recording that Olive Oil & Butter has expanded considerably, the dining area stretching down the back to an outdoor area.

These days it’s got a lovely feel of a real-deal Greek eatery with happy bustle all about.

Of course, this is Melbourne, so coffee and breakfast are front, centre and popular.

But the menu (see below) also features a nice round-up of rustic Greek dishes for lunch.

It’s for them we’re in the house.

 

 

Bennie opts for the open souvlaki ($23).

All present and accounted for as per the menu – two fine skewers of lamb, herbed pita bread, chips, tzatziki, tomato and onions.

He loves; he clean it all up.

I suspect he’s probably making unkind comparisons of the price-to-quantity ratio kind with his beloved Brother Hood in Seddon.

Buddy, that’s unfair – this is a sit-down restaurant situation and you’ve just had a lovely feed.

I get, as recommended by our wait person, the fasolakia lathera ($22, top photo).

Oh boy, this is so wonderful – green beans slow cooked in tomato, onion, garlic (and, I’m sure) a heap of olive oil.

Again, I can hear naysayers proclaiming: “What – $22 for a plate of overcooked beans?”

Ah, but there’s so much more here than that – this is rich and complex, the lemon potatoes and olives fit right in and it’s an ample serve for an all-veg dish.

So delighted am I, that I have another look at the menu and take note of the other home-style meal available here – spanakorizo, moussaka, yemista, fakes – for future consumption.

It’s these sorts of dishes that are the heart of Olive Oil & Butter.

We spy only one seafood dish on the menu, for instance, and the lavish mixed grills you’ll find at other Greek eateries are absent.

But, for me at least, that makes the place all the more appealing.

 

 

All of the above AND the outstanding sweet treats, many of them syrup-drenched, and …

 

 

… the equally terrific spanokopita, tiropita, kreatopita and bougatsa and …

 

 

… and a nice line in Greek groceries make this a Very Cool Place.

And the staff are always on-the-ball and smiling.

See earlier stories here and here.

 

Greek delights in the autumn sun

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Xenia Food Store, 202 Lygon Street, East Brunswick. Phone: 9191 7206

Outside the western suburbs, I can’t think of a foodie strip that is closer to the CTS heart than Lygon Street.

No, no – not the Lygon Street adjoining the Melbourne CBD.

We walk a fair whack of that thoroughfare every week while on kung fu duty.

Very, very rarely to we feel the urge to linger for eats purposes.

And, no, not the Lygon Street that runs north there past Melbourne Cemetery.

But the Lygon that narrows as it enters East Brunswick?

Oh, yes!

That be home, after all, to such previously covered delights as Teta Mona, Mankoush and Moroccan Deli-cacy – even if the latter is apparently entering times of change and new management.

 

 

So we are very happy to accept an invitation (see full disclosure below) to dine at Xenia Food Store, the luscious and intriguing FB pics of which we have been noticing with lust ever since it opened.

Those pictures have me primed for down home, home-style food of the kind not often found in restaurants.

So, as we take our seats at an outdoor table in the blazing Saturday sun, I am surprised by the menu’s listing of such familiar fare as saganaki, chicken skewers and lamb pitta.

But there is much else and our lunch desires this Saturday are simple.

 

 

So we go with the meze platter for two ($32) and are delighted.

Toasted pita bread, of course.

Two dips – a dill-perfumed tzatziki and a chunky eggplant number.

A couple of good stuffed vine leaves.

Fetta cheese.

Loukaniko – pork sausage.

Pickled octopus that is all the more enjoyable thanks to its chewiness.

Best of all – two koupes, more widely known as kibbeh.

They’re fantastic deep-fried torpedoes of bulghur wheat encasing a juicy mix of lamb, onion and seasonings.

 

 

Desserts?

Yes.

It’s overshadowed by the house-made halva ice-cream ($8.5).

This combo of vanilla ice-cream and crushed choc halva sounds like it could be a mishmash, but the outcome is divine in the way it combines both flavour strands.

Our cafe lattes are excellent.

See the Xenia Food Store website here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Xenia Food Store as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We ordered whatever we wanted. Xenia Food Store management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Greek street food – on the street

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Greek Gypsy, 545 Macaulay Road, Kensington. Phone: 0423 709 769

We are eating from yucky polystyrene – and it’s all our fault.

Well … sort of.

If we’d made clear our eating intentions – to have our dinner right there, beside the food truck that is Greek Gypsy – we’d have been provided proper crockery.

Oh well …

As it is, we do get metal cutlery as we proceed to enjoy our meals.

And very good they are, too.

The outdoor furniture that accompanies the Greek Gypsy routine may not be any less disposable than the polystyrene containers.

But the food is every bit as delicious and enjoyable as that to be had at the other Greek enterprises that have been unveiled in our greater neighbourhood in recent months – see here, here and here.

 

 

From the compact menu, both Bennie and I choose …

 

 

… open gyro plates ($14), with a mix of lamb and chicken.

The meat is outstanding – both juicy and chewy, the lamb having a slight edge IMO.

Toasted pita goes good with a generous serve of excellent tsatziki.

The salad bits?

Just OK.

 

 

Chips ($5) are just the teensiest bit too oily.

But otherwise, they are hot, crisp and yummy – and, like, the meat, way better than we have been expecting from this food truck operation.

One of the dinner options we had been contemplating this night, just down the road apiece, would’ve run to a minimum of $80 for the pair of us – and quite probably more than $100.

Yet here we are, sitting atop Kensington Hill, having spent a fraction of that and grinning like happy fools as we eat like kings and watch the traffic and the world flow by.

Life is grand!

 

Greek groove in Yarraville

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Eleni’s Kitchen + Bar, 28 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9943 4233

There’s a lot of family history tied up in Yarraville’s new Greek eatery.

Locals who know just how long the fit-out of the former Anderson Street boutique took will be gratified to know that a fine space has been carved out here, upstairs and down, full kitchen and all.

Surely this is the most radical makeover of a village business property for more than a decade?

The place is being managed by Eleftheria (“Thierry”) Amanatidis.

At her side around the place is her uncle, Tony.

The restaurant is named after Tony’s mother, Eleni Amanatidis.

Eleni’s husband is Dimitrios Amanatidis, the father of whom was Antonios Amanatidis, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests to arrive in Australia.

 

 

So, yes, a lot of family vibes and inner-west Greek traditions going on here.

Unsurprisingly, and very happily from our perspective, the food being delivered (see menu below) is old-school, straight-up Greek tucker.

We wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

 

Still, within that framework we find some nice ‘n’ lovely twists and tweaks when we partake of a fine dinner as guests of Thierry and her crew (see full disclosure below).

In the serve of super fresh dips ($14), for instance, the melitzanosalata eggplant number tastes not in the least of the garlic and smokiness we are expecting, but instead of zingy mint.

Just as good is the tirokafteri of feta, capsicum and the tiniest tingle of chilli.

These two are finely abetted by a tzatziki with dill and a very mild-flavoured tarama.

 

 

The dips are served with very good house-made bread, though we resort to grilled pita to mop up the remainders.

 

 

Bennie and I split two mains between the more ritzy grill line-up and the “Eleni’s home favourites” list that includes moussaka and pastitisio.

The cabbage rolls ($24) are every bit the home-style classics for which we’ve been hoping.

If I rather wish we’d gone for something a little more rich and hearty, Bennie has no such problem.

 

 

The meat in our lamb gyros plate ($25) is very fine indeed – salty and herby and heaps of it.

This meat, BTW, is also available in pita-wrapped takeaway form for $12.

In some ways, though, the top test of both our mains – and a handy gauge of the freshness and general excellence of the food at Eleni’s – comes in the form of the salads that accompany both.

Differing slightly, they are superb – dressed well, juicy and delicious in every way, and displaying no sign at all of even a single tired or brown-edged leaf.

 

 

Bennie and I are keen to go both the available desserts – so we do!

The baklava ($8.50) – made by Thierry herself – is a tender take on another Greek classic.

 

 

Even better, or so I think, is the rizogalo (rice pudding, $8.50).

This is some kind of fancy trick – that something so homespun and plain can simultaneously be so suave, smooth and sexy.

Coffee?

Spot on Greek for him and Italian for me end a great New Year’s Eve outing.

There’s no doubt in our minds that Eleni’s will be widely regarded as a very welcome arrival to the inner west.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Eleni’s as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was chosen by CTS. Eleni’s management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Yiros winner

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The Brotherhood Yiros + Grill, 99 Buckley Street, Seddon. Phone: 9689 6318

It’s inevitable there will be comparisons between this place, just off Buckley Street, and that other new Greek street food-style gyros/souvalaki joint in Seddon.

This is no big deal, as I’m pretty sure both are going to prosper.

Truth is, there’s a welter of kebab-type meals available in the west but a for-sure dearth of Greek classics, a vacuum/niche into which both are happily tapping.

 

 

The Brother Hood crew have a couple of favourable points of difference going in their favour:

Their meat is grilled over charcoal.

They make their own pita bread.

Both definite pluses.

There’s another point of difference that’s not so favourable – or at least it’s a little different.

The Brother Hood place is not a restaurant.

It’s takeaway only, though there is a wait space – that’s about as big as a bathroom in a cheap motel.

It’s there that I enjoy my first BHYG meal.

And most excellent it is.

 

 

My lamb wrap, at $11, costs a couple of bucks more than the Meat The Greek equivalent and it shows.

Everything is ace, from the house-made pita bread on up.

There’s plenty of lamb – and, best of all, it’s of the classic crusty variety.

 

 

My unadorned “patates”, or not “loaded” as the current argot goes, are very good and well priced at $4.

Brother Hood Yiros + Grill?

Or Meat The Greek?

I like it that I can do both.

Brother Hood Yiros + Grill is open for dinner hours only on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

 

Greek revival comes to Seddon

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Meat The Greek Souvlaki Bar, 105A Victoria Street, Seddon. Phone: 9077 9369

A funeral, a priest, a church, an olive tree, senior citizens on the street or tending their gardens, products on the shelves of IGA in Yarraville or Sims in WeFo …

For newly arrived residents or casual visitors, the Greek heritage of the inner west – particularly in Seddon and Yarraville – can seem, no doubt, near invisible.

Look a little harder, though, and it’s right there all around us.

So the opening of a trio of Greek eating establishments is not so much something new as a continuation of deep heritage.

We have no news about the schedule of the Brother Hood Yiros & Grill off Buckley Street.

We do know Eleni’s in Yarraville is, after a slow start, coming along nicely.

Progress views on what looks to be a spectacular fit-out have been available for the past week or so to passers-by on Anderson Street in Yarraville.

But it’s Meat The Greek in Seddon that is first cab off this particular rank.

We – CTS No.1, good mate Justin and his colleague Dayna – hit it on opening day, along with a good number of like-minded hungry and curious souls.

And a very nice lunch we have, too.

I feel obliged to record here the minor wrinkles we experienced.

But given the place had been open barely an hour, I also recommend taking no notice of them.

Indeed, Facebook reviews strongly indicate the Meat The Greek crew is already running right up to speed and doing fine.

 

 

The place is done out in simple, bright and cheerful cafe fashion.

The menu (see below) is just how we like it – succinct and listing very low prices.

Our souvlakis (all $9) –

 

 

… chicken for Dayna and …

 

 

… pork for Justin and I – were good.

These were very much in the Greek street food style, so are not really in your two-fisted, bulging-with-meat bag.

But the meat is fine, abetted by a handful of chips and good dressings and salady bits, all stuffed in that puffy-style pita.

They were good value for $9.

 

 

Are feta chips a new or an old thing?

We don’t know, but we reckon it’s a brilliant concept.

These ($5.50), though, could have been a bit hotter.

 

 

This was Dayna’s first experience with saganaki.

She found it salty.

But, of course, saganaki IS salty.

This one ($9) seemed to have been a bit of a rush job.

As well, by the time the last souvlaki had reached our table, a half hour had elapsed.

But – as noted above – we were happy to be opening-day forgiving given the quality of our lunch.

We’ll be back – and I know Bennie will love this place.

 

Meal of the week No.29: Hellenic Hotel

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After participating in the opening rituals of Hellenic Hotel, I am super keen to try on the joint’s upstairs bar $15 daily specials.

So much so, I bound up the mid-week stairs.

The bar area – excluding verandah – is quite compact, featuring three tables for two, a couple of tall tables with stools and a communal table, also with stools.

The bar menu (see below) features a range of snacky-type dishes through to those with a bit more heft, such as 1/4 HH chicken for $17.

There’s a daily special allocated for each day (also on the menu below) – and based on the excellence of my Wednesday beef stifado, I definitely want to try them all.

My beef stew is marvellous.

The serving is of a good size and the sticky stew features not only heaps of very good beef chunks but also halved baby onions and carrot.

They all sit atop a bed of barley that is puffed up yet still nicely chewy.

Topping all is a fistful of of fennel salad that provides nice contrast.

It’s a delicious lunch and very good value for $15.

 

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Hellenic Hotel unveiled

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Hellenic Hotel, 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9393 1000

Yes, the new George Calombaris establishment in Williamstown is up and running.

The “soft opening” Consider The Sauce attends is loosely dedicated to “media”. It follows one the previous night for family and friends and will be followed the next night by another for locals.

 

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Star Weekly reporter Benjamin Millar documents the action.

 

I enjoy running into a few pals, but each invitee has chosen their own timetable and there is no communal seating, so this just like a busy (normal) night and plays a dual role of fine-tuning the restaurant and its food.

 

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My dining companion, Star Weekly sales gun Rochelle Loney, and I go for the “Feed Me” set menu that retails for $49.

In some ways, this is a bit lazy of us and I later regret not taking the opportunity to explore the a la carte menu in more depth.

But it does make things easy for us – and, besides, what we are served is very much the kind of thing I suspect many-perhaps-most customers here will want.

 

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What we get is pretty much plain, straight-up Greek food – and I say that as no criticism.

It all ranges, in my opinion, from good to very good to outstanding.

 

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Warmed Mount Zero olives – lovely.

In my world, the paler and less fishy is taramosalata the better it becomes.

This is a luscious verging-on-white delight served with slightly fluffy chargrilled pita bread.

 

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The black sesame lavosh and granny smith slices and puree top the saganaki with elan.

But the saganaki is just OK – maybe it’s simply not my thing.

 

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The HH grain salad with pulses, nuts and herbs is a cool, moist and topped with creamy smoked yogurt.

 

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“Heirloom” carrots with fenugreek and almonds are sweet and flavoursome.

 

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The Hellenic Hotel rotisserie chicken …

Normally, I’d expect to see greater depth of colour and way more turbo-charged seasoning.

But this is superb.

Of the two pieces we are presented, I get that with the breast meat.

To my great happiness, it is moist and delicious – which speaks highly of the quality of the chook and the skill with which it has been cooked.

 

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Greek rice pudding – risogalo – is topped with rhubarb and candied pistachios.

It’s a fine way to complete our meal. I like that its sweetness is restrained.

Consider The Sauce will visit Hellenic Hotel again soon to see how the $15 upstairs bar daily specials shape up!

 

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Calombaris social media manager Danielle Poulos with Mandy and Sammi from Mama Knows West.

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Hellenic Hotel – sneak preview

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hell3Like many folks in the west and across Melbourne, I have watched the long-running birth of George Calombaris’s Hellenic Hotel in Williamstown with interest.

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!

 

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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.

 

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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.

Greek training.

Coffee 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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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The rooftop bar is very much a work in progress.

Travis tells me they’re hoping to have this area up and running come summer.

 

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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.

 

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Fabulous Greek

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Philhellene, 551-553 Mount Alexander Road, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 3303

Uh-oh – there’s a hair in our dolmades!

Not to worry, though … the follicle is entirely imaginary but is still being plucked from our food by our Philhellene host as a comic reaction to my taking of photographs.

We’re happy to say it’s that kind of place.

It’s our first visit to Philhellene – one that has been long anticipated and we’re happy to do it in our series putting the spotlight on Moonee Ponds (see full disclosure below).

But because of its renown, I’d expected something a little more formal and starchy.

What we get, instead, is pretty much your typical Greek setting and wonderful welcome.

 

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The service is very fine and our food arrives exceedingly promptly.

That food is very, very good – this is Greek food definitely at the upper end of what is available in Melbourne.

It costs, of course, but not as much as we had feared – indeed, the Philhellene pricing is on par with all the other famed Melbourne Greek eateries.

But where it stands out is its lovingly long offering of provincial specials.

It’s for that reason we steer away from the basic $35 per person banquet for a minimum of two – you can check it out with the rest of the Philhellene menu here.

Frankly, it sounds like an outrageous bargain – but we’re familiar with almost everything it has.

Instead, we go a la carte and have a fine old time.

I am drawn to the long specials list with a sense of wonder mixed with frustration that we will be able to try so little of what’s offered.

I mean, how insanely good do fried sardine fillets with pickled fennel sound?

Or lamb and artichoke fricassee?

Sigh … but onwards.

 

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Our admirably unhairy silverbeet dolmades are sensational, though quite pricey at $12.50 the pair.

When we have the traditional, vegetarian stuffed vine leaves – be they Turkish, Greek, Lebanese, Whatever – we prefer them unheated.

By contrast, these are served hot and they suit it – the innards are delicious, tender mix of rice, seasonings and beef.

 

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For our other starters, we do stick to familiar Greek staples – one of them is this terrific tarama.

It’s a generous serve for $8.50, especially as it’s as fresh and tangy as we could wish and is served with beaut house-made bread.

 

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Our calamari ($14.50) is well fried and tender but does tend to lose out in the flavour stakes when compared with the other dishes we enjoy.

 

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For me, one of the main reasons to visit Philhellene is to enjoy lamb – not shaved from a spit nor cubed and put on skewers, but instead roasted.

We take a slightly different tack on that Greek philosophy by getting the roast kid goat ($29.95).

It has wow factor in abundance.

The meat is perhaps a tad too salty but is oh-so-wonderful and really does fall from the bones.

The roast spuds and well-cooked mix of peas ‘n’ broad beans come to the dance, too.

Together with our other selections, this single goat serve does us well – though Bennie is so impressed, he later reckons he could easily scoff a whole serve by his own self.

 

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For a final splash of colour, we love our beetroot salad ($16.50, in which baby beetroots – and their tops – have been boiled and then simply dressed with dukkah and yogurt.

It, too, is wonderful.

We’ve ordered well and eaten superbly – but it is with some regret that we head into the night without giving into the temptation of trying something from the desserts list (see below).

When explaining to our host our hesitation about ordering an overly familiar banquet line-up, he told us such could be varied and that a list of staples is simply what some customers seek and require.

That makes us reckon the way to go at Philhellene is to nominate to the staff a price per person you want to pay and then simply announce: “Bring us food!”

Or, if you’re up for it, go for the horiatiko banquet, which costs $60 per punter and is described as “the ultimate of tasting our favourite dishes”.

As it says on the Philhellene website: “Trust us in providing you with a memorable food experience …. this is the only way we would eat with our family and friends.”

(This story has been sponsored by Moonee Valley City Council. But in all other regards it is a regular Consider The Sauce post – we chose the restaurant and when to eat there; we ordered what we wanted and paid for it ourselves; and neither oversight nor an editorial role were sought by the council.)

 

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Santorini/West Welcome Wagon/CTS benefit – the wrap

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The fundraiser night for West Welcome Wagon hosted by Santorini Greek restaurant in Williamstown and Consider The Sauce was a hoot and a wonderful success.

Many, many thanks to Craig and the Santorini crew for making us so welcome and filling us up with so much fantastic food!

After subtracting booking fees and a very generous per person fee for food, West Welcome Wagon will be getting just a tad under $1000.

 

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Some very generous bidders on our three auction lots put another $500 or so in the kitty.

So all up, West Welcome Wagon will get more than $1400 to help continue its amazing work with asylum seekers in the western suburbs.

 

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So thanks, too, to Santorini (again!), La Morenita/Latin Foods & Wines and Brother Nancy for their generosity in terms of auction goodies.

 

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And a final big “thank you” to all who supported this event!

We’re already discussing the next one.

 

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West Welcome Wagon party – auction goodies

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The Brother Nancy team gives a cheery thumbs-up to being part of the fun!

 

There’s about a week and half until the West Welcome Wagon/Santorini/CTS Greek fundraising feast in Williamstown.

We have about 10 tickets left – if you’re thinking about attending, and we really, really want you to, I suggest you get your skates on.

For booking information, go here.

In the meantime, a couple of generous businesses have donated goodies for a simple, two-pronged auction on the night I hope will raise even more moolah for West Welcome Wagon.

Brother Nancy in West Footscray – see Erika’s story here and mine here – has donated lunch for two to the value of $50.

We reckon that should see a pair of you right for a cool drink, a main meal and a hot drink.

 

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As well, Maria and Marco of La Morenita/Latin Foods & Wines have donated a lovely half-dozen bottle of primo South American wine.

Greek feast for West Welcome Wagon

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TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE.

Ever since running a successful event at the Plough in Footscray to raise money for West Welcome Wagon, I have been wanting to run another.

It’s been what they call a learning curve.

Picking a suitable restaurant is easy.

Finding one with the required community spirit and generosity is significantly harder.

Finding one with both that is big enough to hold the sort of numbers required to raise a good whack of WWW-bound cash is MUCH harder.

 

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When the proprietor of Williamstown Greek restaurant Santorini contacted us with a view to having Team CTS eat at his establishment, I had a hunch.

“Maybe this is the one!” I thought.

And I was right – when I asked Craig if he would be interested in hosting a WWW fundraiser, he said: “Yes!”

And, just for the record, he did so before the CTS story about our fabulous dinner was published.

I’d earlier contacted Mia of West Welcome Wagon to tell her I was eager to organise another fundraiser.

Here’s what she said of West Welcome Wagon’s efforts to help asylum-seeker households in the west:

“We have had money flying out the door of late. So very many households arriving here with absolutely nothing … the influx was so sudden and great that donations in kind haven’t been enough and we’ve been buying things like food and paying for trucks to help move beds. My point being, we are definitely, more than ever, open to fundraising!

So our June 24 feast date is more than timely!

Of course, a worthy cause is no reason not to have a bunch of fun and eat exceedingly well.

And for that, both Mia and I thank Craig and the Santorini team very, very much.

Here’s the drill …

At our fundraiser, there will be heaps of great food in the generous Greek tradition.

The ticket cost is $50 per person – with 40 per cent of the takings going straight to West Welcome Wagon.

(CTS will be taking none of it and we will be buying tickets.)

The banquet we will be served normally costs $55 – so we are getting it for $5 less and still raising money for WWW.

How cool is that?

 

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Here are the details:

West Welcome Wagon/Santorini/Consider The Sauce fundraiser

Santorini Restaurant, 1 Parker Street, Williamstown.

Wednesday, June 24, from 7pm.

Cost: $50.

Food: Banquet (see above).

Drinks: Not covered by the ticket price but freely available on the night from the bar.

Tickets: There are 50 places available.

TO BOOK FOR THIS EVENT, CLICK HERE.

We are looking forward to enjoying your company!

Great Greek in Willy

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Santorini, 1 Parker Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9399 8520

On the eve of our mid-week dinner at Santorini, I spend some time checking out the restaurant’s website and menu – and hatch a plan.

I will, without blushing, hijack the ordering for our table of five.

As it turns out, one my companions, Jacqui, the Urban Ma, has received advice that puts her mindset in the same place as mine.

Says Jacqui: “My friend said to me, ‘Whatever you do, don’t have the dips, don’t eat the bread!'”

Indeed, why bulk up on those reliably nice things when, as non-paying guests (see full disclosure below), we can order whatever we desire?

Why not make the most of the opportunity by ordering elsewhere?

So we do!

 

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We – Jacqui, hubby Wes, son Daniel, Bennie and myself – proceed to enjoy a spectacular Greek feed in a lovely Williamstown building.

Built in 1850, the triangular building was once the local post office, and looks out on the bay as it does so the then postmen (and women?) could observe when the boats were incoming.

The interior is elegant yet casual, the service spot on.

 

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Had we gone the regular route with dips or one of the banquet choices, we would never had tried the simple yet amazing horta ($10) – greens, lemon and olive oil.

This chicory looks plain, eats delicious.

 

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Fasolakia ($12.90) is another green and healthy treat, with its beans, spinach, feta and toasted almond slivers.

 

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Our three-starter line-up is completed by the spuds.

What can I say?

How about: “OMG, OMG, OMG!!!”

Really, these humble tiganites patates ($7.90), pan-fried in olive oil, oregano and “kalas salt”, are so so simple yet so very yummy.

So much so that none of us mind at all that quite a few more of them turn up as “trimmings” for our main selections.

 

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Chargrilled prawns ($34.50) and …

 

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… kota souvlaki (marinated chicken cooked over charcoal, $26.50) are good, solid, enjoyable Greek fare, though the chicken is a tad on the dry side.

But they are well and truly aced by …

 

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… the arni gyros of marinated lamb shoulder “shaved off the spit” ($28.90).

This is fabulous stuff that well and truly destroys my some-time belief that the only difference between the food to be had at your typical souvlaki shop and that from more swish Greek restaurant proper is the price.

Wrong!

You’d be very lucky indeed to find lamb this good, this crusty, so unfatty, so joyously enjoyable in a takeaway joint.

What’s more, it’s an impressively big serve.

With its spuds, pita bread and tzatziki, and with the addition of a salad on the side, this would make a perfectly satisfying and affordable meal for two.

Our lamb is unanimously voted the hit of the night.

Along with them spuds!

 

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Our mains have been suitably accompanied by a good horiatiki salad ($14.90).

 

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Did we leave room for dessert?

Yes.

Loukoumades are smaller than those I’ve eaten in the past but they are nicely chewy and really nice.

And in Bennie’s world, deep-fried = good.

 

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Galaktoboureko is even better, it being a semolina custard sandwiched between filo pastry – this is a sort-of Greek-style vanilla slice, but less sweet and cloying.

Check out the Santorini website, including menu, here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Santorini as guests of management. No money changed hands. We ordered whatever we wanted. Santorini management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

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Souvlakis and white choc risotto

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Hellenic Flavours On Puckle, 25 Puckle Street Moonee Ponds. Phone: 93757064
Vicolo, 28-30 Young Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9372 9500

There’s been a number of eatery openings in and around Puckle Street lately and we’re up for trying one of them for lunch.

We know Hellenic Flavours will be a kebab shop that will also do hamburgers.

But we suspect that it may also be one of those nifty places that does a nice job of taking care of the fast-food requirements but one that also offers more substantial Greek food at prices way below those found in more formal Greek restaurant settings.

That’s just what we discover.

 

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The place is done out in the expected mix of take-away and restaurant with plenty of seating and scenic photos from the Mediterranean adorning the walls.

A big work group sitting next to us is tucking with glee into $15 plates of various kebab meats (some of it on sticks), pita, salad, chips and tzatiki.

Cool!

There’s also available the likes of mousaka, pastitsio, stuffed vegetables and grills such as steaks.

 

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We both go for the traditional lamb souvlaki ($11) and are happy with our choices.

 

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Our wraps are encased in the usual, thickish Greek-style pita we suspect may have come from this venerable Braybrook institution.

There’s just the right amount of salad and sauce.

And the meat is crunchy crusted, salty, hot and delicious.

Next stop – dessert!

Not since a flurry of visits to the classic Italian of Vicolo – culminating in a beaut CTS Feast – have we been back.

Today we’ve been enticed through the Young Street doors by a Facebook item in which Marie spruiks her white chocolate risotto with hazelnuts.

 

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It’s the biz at a very generously proportioned $12 serve – thank heavens Bennie and I share.

“Mmmmm – it’s good,” says I.

“Yes, and so healthy,” quips Bennie.

Haha!

It’s nothing of the sort, of course.

But nor is eating this glorified rice pudding quite exactly like the decadent, silky and out-there experience of consuming a panna cotta, creme brulee or even a pavlova.

The al dente rice gives it a bit more substance and chewiness than that.

Still – excellent!

 

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