Do you know how long I have waited to eat at Hellenic Republic? ALL OF MY LIFE. Or at least it seems that way. For years I’ve been trying to lock it in as my preferred birthday blow-out treat venue, but as I share these outings with my mother as our birthdays are mere days apart, and she has the shocking temerity to not like Greek food (WHAT), it was not to be. Thankfully when catching up with Jen and Zoe for a long overdue dinner of awesome, Jen had the good sense to book at table at Hellenic, throwing me into an excited/nervous maelstrom of “oh yes FINALLY but will it be good oh god I hope it’s good.”
Zoe had thankfully been to Hellenic many a time, and had the good oil on what we should order. As long as we finished on the loukoumathes, the Greek doughnuts that have become chef George Columbaris’ specialty and have long been haunting my most covetous dreams, I was very happy to accept whatever showed up. And very happy I ended up indeed.
To start we went with a pair of dips with grilled pita bread, because I can’t pass up the chance to slather bread in things. The tzatziki of cucumber, dill and olive oil drizzled yoghurt was agreeably tart, but my heart was immediately taken by the fava Santorini – yellow split pea dip with white truffle oil, capers, and shallots. THIS DIP WAS BROUGHT DOWN FROM OLYMPUS BY SOME WILY HERO THIEF OF ANTIQUITY, THIS IS MY FIRM BELIEF. Because how else could it have been so outrageously, surprisingly good? I don’t ordinarily expect dips to rate among the best part part of a meal (who does) but this was extraordinary and a must order.
Our other starter was the tyri saganaki kefalograviera with peppered figs. I’m always happy to eat up hot salty cheese like it is manna, but felt slight trepidation about the idea of a peppered fig. I should not have been so silly and trusted in George, as it turns out peppered figs are quite delightful, the sharp burr of peppery heat mellowing out against the fig’s sweetness so that with the salty cheese it was a fantastic hot-savoury-sweet taste melange.
The Cypriot salad of grains, pulses, nuts and yoghurt was our concession towards vaguely healthy eating, and it was a very good choice indeed, being very nutty, lightly dressed with olive oil yet allowing the simple grains to pop against the tart yoghurt.
And immediately directing spite at any sense of healthy eating was the next dish, the Tiganites Patates – potatoes fried in olive oil, and flaked with oregano and salt. You probably don’t need yet another description from me about crispy fried potato, so I will spare you, but it was good, ever so good.
As my vegie main I got for myself a spanakopita, which as we all know is a Greek cheese and spinach pie in flaky filo pastry. A nice round of a pie, it was light and flaky, not at all greasy or oily, a nice salty golden pillow threaded with green.
I was growing dangerously full by this point, and was worried at the fact I still had two desserts to sample! The much longed for loukoumathes were first – Hellenic doughnuts generously drizzled with honey, dusted with cinnamon and then topped with scattered walnuts. These were as divinely sweet as the description implies, puffed balls of dough liberally coated in thick, oozy, sweet sweet sweet honey. They were in all honestly probably a bit too rich for their own good, we actually couldn’t finish the bowl between the three of us! But they were still very worth trying, I would just recommend either eating less before they are scheduled to hit the table (a very difficult proposition), or having more people to share them with.
Our second dessert was the Bougatsa me Frouta tou pathous – semolina and passionfruit custard pie, encased in filo pastry and topped with vanilla ice-cream. This was the secret stealth winner of the whole meal. Akin to a round roll version of vanilla slice, it was a gorgeous rich custard delight, bright yellow and decadent yet not at all heavy once settled in your stomach, it was somewhat a feat of wizardry. Zoe informed us that this is a dish commonly served for breakfast in Greece, which seems enormously unfair in comparison to cereal and means we should all probably pack up and go to Greece tomorrow.
So did Hellenic Republic live up to my wild expectations? Yes, and then some. The staff were a delight and enormously professional while still being friendly, the space although large manages to make you and your table of diners feel they have an intimate cocoon, and the food, as gushingly detailed above, was well worth the wait. I hope I don’t have to wait as long for a second helping.
434 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
Ph: 9381 1222