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 excellent.

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.