Aug 17, 2017
Sydney’s best Greek restaurants serving lemon-laden taramasalata, garlicky skordalia and slow-cooked lamb that falls off the bone. Reviews by Anthony Huckstep and Alex Greig.
￼When The Apollo landed a few years ago, it set a new benchmark for Greek dining in Sydney. The interiors – by George Livissianis, the man behind Longrain and Cho Cho San – veer away from the usual Med-blue and whitewashed cliché to deliver a sleek palette of industrial grey and pink pastels, along with concrete floors and walls and a long marble bar. The design mimics the direction of the food: a contemporary cache that finds its roots in Greek cuisine but manifests in a modern Australian meal where simplicity rules. Honey adds a luscious note to beautifully baked saganaki cheese, while lemon, chilli and parsley partner gently grilled sardines. Greek yoghurt is drizzled over slow-roasted lamb shoulder that falls off the bone when a fork touches it. It all comes to a sweet end with the famous avgolemono pie, a concoction of lemon curd and meringue that turns the familiar egg-and-lemon soup on its head.
44 Macleay Street, Potts Point ￼ (02) 8354 0888
￼This Neoclassical Greek restaurant honours traditional dishes as much as it reimagines them. At this glamorous eating house in the heart of the city, diners can eat al fresco on the terrace or at the marble bar in the restaurant proper. Chef Peter Conistis’s food is designed to be shared, as all good Greek should be. White cod’s roe dip (aka taramasalata) is a rich, salty delight. Macaroni kofto and cherry tomatoes support wonderfully toothsome twice-cooked octopus, while Cretan-style braised lentils provide a bed for Wagyu beef souvlaki. But the real star of any meal here is the signature moussaka with eggplant and seared scallops.
238 Castlereagh Street, Sydney ￼ (02) 9098 1111
For years, David Tsirekas presided over Perama in Petersham, a neighbourhood Greek eatery beloved by locals. Now he’s the emperor of a three-level colossus on Pitt Street. Named after the year the Greek Revolution began, 1821 features white walls, exposed bricks and décor that was designed and built in Athens before being shipped to Australia. Dine on the mezzanine overlooking the booths below or around the small island bar, which serves an array of Greek and local wines and beers. The food is a mix of Mediterranean mashup and traditional Greek. Pork belly is presented as baklava and san choy bow gets a Greek spin. But the Moussaka Circa 1910 – consisting of eggplant, braised lamb, orange and potato – is the real heartwarming joy.
122 Pitt Street, Sydney ￼ (02) 8080 7070
Zeus Street Greek
The philosophy behind this speedy multi-outlet venture is to serve up good, honest Greek using thoughtfully sourced produce. There’s free-range lamb in dishes such as the Zeus pita with Aegean slaw, smoked eggplant and parsley; oregano- and feta-strewn chips made with potatoes grown by a family with four generations in the spud game; and salads such as the Village (tomato, cucumber, onion, oregano, feta and lemon dressing) are made using vegies from farms sometimes just hours from its restaurants. Socrates would approve.
Seed Greek Kouzina
A tiny Greek outpost holds firm within the Portuguese stronghold of Petersham. At Seed, on the site of the much-loved, now-defunct Greek restaurant Perama, a menu of modern Hellenic fare keeps the dining room packed even as the scent of roasted Portuguese chicken beckons from Silvia’s and Gloria’s, et al. There is chicken here (done with a capsicum mayonnaise and walnut dressing), but it’s more about the barbecued sardines, saganaki cheese strewn with ripe figs and honey and lamb cooked to tender submission in parchment and served with tangy tzatziki. Inside, the restaurant is a modern Greek taverna with clean white walls, the ubiquitous island windmill scenes and warm, helpful service. On the drinks list, Mythos beer recalls Greek island holidays past as do heady retsinas and agiorgitiko, a grape indigenous to Greece that creates reds with a rich palate of cherries and vanilla.
88 Audley Street, Petersham; (02) 9560 7798
Athenian Greek Restaurant
Where Alpha represents modern Greek in the CBD, the Athenian is steadfastly old-school. The Tressos family has been in the Greek restaurant business since 1973 and Athenian Greek Restaurant, 11 years in business, remains a favourite of Greek-Australian families who gather in clans spanning generations to share spit-roasted lamb with tzatziki, tangy dishes of taramasalata and creamy, béchamel-heavy moussaka. The elegant Martin Place location also makes it a long-time haunt of business lunch-ers, out-of-towners and theatre-goers, a place where regulars and newcomers alike are treated like old friends. Inside the cavernous, be-columned space there’s de rigueur depictions of Greek triumphs (the Pantheon) and blue-and-white island idylls and the traditional take continues on the menu. After all, it was a Greek who wrote one of the first-known cookbooks (Archestratus, in poetry form, in 350BC). Spanakopita with flaky filo pastry; marinated octopus; souvlaki; rich beef stifado; and the Athenian Special: slow-roasted lamb, stuffed capsicum, cabbage roll, stuffed zucchini and Greek-style vegies keep things classic.
11 Barrack Street, Sydney; (02) 9262 2624
Greek food is, by its nature, unpretentious. It’s hearty, rustic and satisfying – three adjectives that seem to have been at the forefront of owners Mario and Katrine Sarris’ minds when they devised the menus at The Reservoir. Things start early here with Mediterranean takes on toast (zataar on pita with tomato and mozzarella), eggs (scrambled and served with spinach, tomato and feta) and the obligatory big breakfast (poached eggs rolled in sumac and sesame, sujuk sausage, olives, haloumi, tomato and basil with Turkish toast). As things tick over into lunchtime, Greece asserts its authority with gyros done the proper way (i.e. with the chips on the inside) and souvlaki plates of fresh chicken or lamb skewers served with Greek salad, pita, chips and tzatziki. The chargrill gets a workout again come dinnertime with fresh, tasty dishes including Paithakia which is lamb cutlets chargrilled to tender sweetness, and Xifia Brizola: swordfish steak with salsa verde, lemon potatoes and ancient grain salad. Despite a menu that adheres to classic flavours, the interiors eschew clichés – blue and white, in combination, don’t get a look-in. The space is Surry Hills-industrial with exposed brick walls, utilitarian light fittings, indoor plants and not a single windmill in sight.
47 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills; (02) 9281 2228
Haloumi chips, mini spanakopita, chicken wings with lemon mayo and yeeros: the pub food at the city’s Civic Hotel has a decidedly Greek slant. David Tsirekas (see 1821, above) took over proceedings in the popular Art Deco era pub’s kitchen in 2015 and since then, Greece has been the word. Now, the kitchen is presided over by Luiza Gomez. Expect a menu of Greek-inspired dishes – a cuisine that’s ideally suited to the pub environment. Few pubs worth their salt don’t have calamari on the menu, but Greeks do it better. Here, calamari rings are fried crisp and served with aioli and lemon wedges; yeeros (pork belly with chipotle apple salsa and parsley, lamb with mint and hummus and chicken with red onion and avocado cream) are perfect for socialising (yeeros in one hand, beer in the other); and weekly specials such as Wednesday’s Yia Yia’s Puff Pie (it’s chicken and vegie) offer options for those who don’t want to share.
388 Pitt Street, Sydney; (02) 8080 7000
Kafenes Greek Restaurant
Wine and olive oil were staples of the ancient Greek diet; thankfully, so they remain. At Kafenes, a neighbourhood staple that’s withstood the vagaries of Enmore Road (including its latest incarnation as the gastronome’s byway of choice), order a bowl of Olives Saganaki (pan-fried olives with bread to mop up the juices) and pour yourself a drop of your BYO before making any further menu decisions. After all, it’s the kind of restaurant where customers are welcome to linger over dessert (the Loukoumades cinnamon-and-honey drizzled doughnuts are straight from the Gods), stay for another drink and loudly debate the issues of the day. Popular among pre-gig diners (the Enmore Theatre is just across the road), Kafenes offers the kind of reliable home-cooked Greek dishes that also keep a steady flow of regulars streaming through the door. Things like smoky eggplant dip, garlicky skordalia and pan-fried haloumi doused in lemon and olive oil to start; and lamb in a bewildering number of incarnations including baked in a clay pot with potatoes, slow-cooked in foil with haloumi and chargrilled on a skewer to tender, smoky perfection. It’s all served in a comforting Aegean-blue and chalk-white colour scheme complete with chequered tablecloths and a photo wall dedicated to the motherland.
149 Enmore Road, Enmore; (02) 9557 7580