Hellenic Hotel unveiled

5 Comments

hell23

 

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.

 

hell26

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.

 

hell24

 

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.

 

hell25

 

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.

 

hell27

 

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.

 

hell28

 

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.

 

hell29

 

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

 

hell210

 

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

 

hell211

 

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.

 

hell214

 

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!

 

hell213

hell22

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

hell215

hell21

Hellenic Hotel – sneak preview

6 Comments

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!

 

hell6

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.

 

hell5

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.

 

hell4

 

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.

 

hell10

 

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.

 

hell8

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.

 

hell9

 

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.

 

hell1

What’s up in Willy?

2 Comments

raga3

 

Raga Indian Cuisine, 223 Nelson Place, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 6982

A couple of years ago, Consider The Sauce was very excited to try – for the first time – the funky South African workingman’s soul food that is bunny chow.

Sadly, before I got around to a return visit to Sanctuary Lakes shopping centre for a return encounter, the humble cafe concerned closed down.

(See here for that story and some background on bunny chows!)

So I was delighted, as we ambled away from enjoying Nelson Place’s new Italian joint, that Bennie noticed the above notice in the window of a nearby Indian eatery.

At the first available, opportunity I’m there.

After I order my lamb bunny, the staff/management soon work out I’m “that guy with that camera” – and I am unsurprised to learn Raga has ties to the now defunct Point Cook cafe at which I first tried a bunny chow!

 

raga4

 

So I am brought a complementary dish courtesy of the chef.

Quail 65 is a knockout – and probably the best Indo-Chinese dish I’ve ever tried.

The rotund fritters are wonderfully crisp and nicely salty on the outside, while the shredded quail meat inside is fabulous.

All is attended by lovely, spiced cucumber noodles.

They are so good!

But I am mindful of leaving room for my bunny so donate the remaining two fritters to the grateful inhabitants of the adjacent table.

 

raga2

 

Now take it as given that my experience with bunny chows is limited … but that said, I reckon my Raga lamb bunny is a killer delight.

The accompanying salad, served in a giant prawn cracker, is just right.

The lamb curry is plentiful, very spicy and studded with tender spud chunks.

This time around, knowing a little of bunny lore, I make only small use of cutlery, mostly use my hands and love every mouthful of curry and bread.

But it’s a big meal and I call a halt to my feasting after consuming all the curry and about half the bread.

The price?

I suspect experienced Durban bunny hounds will snort with derision at paying $17.50 for what is ostensibly blue-collar street food.

But I don’t have any problem with the price tag – it’s a good investment, IMO, for a fine meal.

And especially given this is probably the only place in Melbourne, and even within Australia, that serves bunny chows.

After all the cafe-style Indian places we frequent, it’s been real nice to spend some time in a proper, well-appointed Indian restaurant.

And the thalis ordered by a happy a neighbouring table seem like a great deal. The thalis, like the bunnies, are served on Mondays and Tuesdays.

The mint/tamarind sauce that came with my papadums was adorned with latte art!

 

raga5

raga1

Nelson Place, top stuff

6 Comments

mscal8

 

Mascalzone Pizzeria Osteria Artigiana, 217-219 Nelson Plavce, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 7269

Mascalzone has been open about three weeks, replacing one of the nondescript venues for which Nelson Place is mostly known, that one replacing another before it.

Mascalzone is sure step in a good direction.

It’s done out brightly with an accent on Italian in decor, ambience and food.

There’s a big brick oven at the rear and a display cabinet of fine-looking antipasto goodies at the front.

We find the service for Saturday lunch is terrific and our food is brought to us in a timely fashion.

Mascalzone’s menu (see below) is a smartly tight line-up of modern-classic Italiana that extends from starters through pizzas, pasta and salads to dolci.

 

mascal6

 

When checking out such joints as this for the first time, we routinely choose one of the basic pizzas just to see how they shape up.

In this case that means the napoletana ($18) picked from a list of nine red pizzas and five of the white kind.

Our pizza is very nice with simplicity being the thing and the toppings all of good quality and in the right proportions.

The crusts are have a wonderful charred thing going on.

 

mascal7

 

From the list of five pastas, we select the pappardelle al ragu di agnello with roasted asparagus ($22).

At first, the lamb shoulder sauce and the white pasta present as so pale as to be pallid.

But there’s do doubting the home-style depth of flavours in the meat, the attendant juices and the excellent cheese gratings.

All this rests upon and about truly wonderful house-made pasta that is al dente perfection.

 

mascal5

 

Tiramisu ($10) is a dream of cream and not much else – but we love it anyway.

Next time we’ll be up for sharing one of the two antipasti platters.

And there will be a next time.

Nelson Place, food destination.

 

mascal1

mascal3

mascal2

Yum cha by Kenny – no relation

3 Comments
kenny9

 

Kenny’s Yum Cha House, 34 Ferguson Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9397 8688

The premises recently occupied by Kenny’s Yum Cha House was previously, and for many years, a rather nondescript noodle shop we never tried.

A new family has taken over, headed by dumpling-making dad Kenny, and they’re doing very nice things.

I confess to having tried “hokkien noodles” a few weeks before Christmas and being unimpressed.

But then a home delivery of some of yum cha items – and very good they were – re-sparked my interest.

 

kenny1

 

So heading to Ferguson Street with two regular CTS companions, I am filled with hope.

But there is cause to be cautious in terms of optimism.

After all, normal expectations for yum cha goodies served in such a humble, corner store setting would normally fall into the realms of cheap, enjoyable but surely frozen and mass-produced dumplings and the like.

 

kenny3

 

What we enjoy at Kenny’s Yum Cha House is way, way better than that – top-notch yum cha that pretty much matches what you’ll find at any of the storied yum cha places around town.

In fact, this place sort of redefines yum cha and how it can work.

Yum cha doesn’t have to be Sunday brunch; it can also easily be dinner.

Great yum cha doesn’t have to involve trollies; it can just as easily be a la carte.

In truth, it can even be argued that ordering as you go is preferable.

 

kenny4

 

Finally, Kenny’s Yum Cha House proves beaut yum cha doesn’t have to be served in a vast barn; a smallish neighbourhood enterprise can do it, too.

Everything we have is good or better:

  • Pan-fried dumplings ($8 for five).
  • Pork dumplings ($5.50 for three).
  • Chive prawn dumplings ($6 for three).
  • Pork ribs in black bean sauce ($5.50).
  • Chicken feet in black bean sauce ($5).

Only the last mentioned are in any way less than excellent; they lack a certain spicy zing.

 

kenny2

 

As well, as we find that assessing a yum cha joint can at least partially be done on the basis of greenery, we order Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce ($12) – and that, too, is lovely.

 

kenny5

 

It’s been a rather smashing meal – cheap, easy, impromptu (we pay $16 per person).

And on a Monday night in Williamstown!

 

kenny6

kenny8

Kenny meets Kenny.

kenny7

 

 

 

 

Meal of the week No.25: Kiosk by d’Asporto

2 Comments

kiosk26

 

Getting all excited about the impending opening of Kiosk by d’Asporto at Williamstown Beach – including doing a story for The Age and then doing a blog story about doing a story for The Age – is all good and well.

But it’s not in the realms of proof-is-in-the-eating.

 

kiosk25

 

So lunch it is for us.

We choose a beaut day for it – sunny but not hot, precious little wind and not too many people around.

There’s two tables adjacent the kiosk but we grab two of the stools right up close.

 

kiosk21

 

Bennie has one the gorgeous-looking panini on display – pulled pork with Italian coleslaw ($10).

It’s fabulous!

The bread is fresh, the pork has great flavour and the slaw has nuts and dried fruit.

 

kiosk23

 

I’m not sure how Italian the fish and chips ($10) are but I love them anyway.

It’s easy to do so as they’re hot and crisp and delicious.

The chunk of flake is of modest proportions but is all meaty perfection.

 

kiosk22

 

Also freshly fried are the arancini – the larger ones of potato and cheese ($3 each), the smaller of a sort of rice-y bolognese with cheese ($1.80 or four or $6).

They are totally yummy taste balls.

 

kiosk24

 

The fine display of sweet, baked goodies – and the coffee and the gelati – will have to wait for another day.

It’s only one meal – but Kiosk by d’Asporto really does feel like a game-changer for westside beachside eating.

Kiosk by d’Asporto – photo shoot for The Age

7 Comments

kiosk17

 

Read The Age story here.

Right from the time we got a nice reader’s tip that something good was happening at Williamstown Beach, Consider The Sauce has been following the doings there with high interest.

 

kiosk5

 

Not just because stuffing the lifesaving club’s kiosk with really good Italian street food is such a fine idea but also because the lovely crew from Pizza d’Asporto is up to their necks in making it happen.

 

 

kiosk18

 

As well, such a brilliant idea is it that selling it as a “Just Opened” feature for The Age was a breeze with that rag’s food editor Roslyn Grundy.

 

kiosk7

 

Today’s the day for the photo shoot.

 

kiosk15

 

I don’t expect to be playing a particularly active role – but it is my story and besides, you know, it’s fun.

 

kiosk6

 

Claudio, Antoinetta, Ros, myself and everyone else involved has been most fervently hoping for fine, sunny weather.

 

kiosk13

 

That we don’t get.

 

kiosk2

 

But Melbourne being mercurial Melbourne, we’re all pretty happy with the overcast but warm, windless conditions.

 

kiosk12

 

Oh yes, it could be way worse.

 

kiosk4

 

Figuring the photographer was booked for 1.30pm, I’m a bit shocked to bowl up at 1pm to find the shoot already underway.

 

kiosk11

 

I am also aghast that the kiosk is chockers with all sorts of beautiful food and that all hands are on deck – when the official opening is still a week away.

 

kiosk3

 

But while it’s likely only two pics will be used to accompany my yarn, truth is this is also a handy trial run for the entire Kiosk by d’Asporto operation.

 

kiosk9

 

I have a nice old time chatting to all and sundry as photographer Wayne, his wife, Nicole, and Antoinetta get the business done with professional aplomb.

 

kiosk8

 

Then we eat!

Read The Age story here.

 

kiosk19