Hellenic Republic is a Melbourne Greek marvel just out of the city that captivates with its simple but expertly prepared cuisine, top flight service and relaxed appealing ambience. It's a taste of Greece in Melbourne and a credit to maestro George Calombaris. Having been several times for brunch and loved the experience we were excited for our family lunch at this iconic restaurant.
With chairs on the wall, long tables, large hanging cray baskets, and Greek artifacts, Hellenic Republic has an almost rustic feel. The fit out is clearly a nod to Greece. Hellenic Republic buzzes at Saturday lunch time, something like an upmarket Greek tavern. A relaxed atmosphere where one can enjoy a convivial meal with friends is the main game here.
We start our feast at Hellenic Republic with a variety of olives. Great quality and the perfect starter.
It's almost expected we would order Greek dips and pita bread in a Greek restaurant. At many places in Melbourne the Greek dips are pedestrian but here at Hellenic Republic they are noticeably fresh and of perfect consistency. The pita bread arrives warm and the flavours of the dips are superb. I enjoyed the Tzatziki with fresh cucumber, dill, garlic, olive oil and yoghurt. The Fava was also a winner with Truffle scented split pea dip, shallots and capers (check out the garnish on top).
Another irresistable dish is the Sardines - lightly battered with an aoli... So good.
It was however the Lamb that led the charge. Arni Sto Fourno - Slow roasted shoulder of lamb with garlic and oregano. This lamb is so tender and moorish -with delectable seasoning keeping the meat as the hero - and the right amount of fat (what is lamb without the fat?). This dish was simple but packed a wallop of flavour. I was able to nominate a champion early on....
Our family catch up was going great guns. Is there a better restaurant for family catch up in Melbourne than Hellenic Republic? Shared meals to enhance family and community. Superb cuisine, even memorable. A relaxed ambience. You feel a sense of occasion in coming here. Not only that, the staff here are attune to making families feel welcome (ie treat the kids like they are celebrated not just tolerated).
It was then we glanced at the sign below - I believe Hellenic Republic reflects this sentiment well... This is food with heart over art.
Hellenic Republic is famous for its superb cooking of meat, but its salads are some of the best around...
The salad below is a simple Greek salad but fresh and tasty...
Another highlight was the Loytianos - Whole Snapper and tamara butter. Once again it's the Snapper as the hero, cooking it well and not overcomplicating things. The fish was so white and buttery...
An arresting beetroot salad, the Patzari Salata was so visually appealing with taste to match. The combination of flavours was perfect with beetroot salad, cumin yoghurt and coriander.
My wife makes a cracker grain salad that we often enjoy at home. I was in the mood for the acclaimed Cypriot salad. Hellenic Republic didn't let me down with the Kipriaki Salata Dimitriakon with Cypriot salad of grains, pulses, nuts and yoghurt. A standout salad in Melbourne...
Even the hand made chips burst forth with crispy zingy flavour...
Am I overdoing the superlatives? Probably because I've been to a couple of average restaurants (no names) lately and I rank Hellenic Republic as the best Greek restaurant in Melbourne. (Followed by Aspro Ble in the CBD).
Equally awesome at Hellenic Republic are the desserts... (If you're able to save some room). Our feast was completed with Loukoumathes - Hellenic doughnuts, honey, cinnamon and walnuts. It was the combination of these elements that was so satisfying.
Also impressive was Ekmek kataifi pagoto - kataifi pastry, cherries, custard, and mastic ice cream.
Hellenic Republic is consistently great. Every time I've visited has been special. The wait staff are known to even walk you to the door, just like you might do having someone around for dinner.
It seems some of the staff have been here a while - unusual in hospitality - a key to success?
We were so impressed with our lunch - my wife commented that in heaven she would like to be at the Greek table... Hellenic Republic - is there not a romance in humble authentic Greek cuisine done simply but well? Highly recommended.