So, when I took part in Melbourne’s Wanderlust 108 last weekend, I was more than content to be walking away having completed the 5km run in once piece, along with a delicious Mastic quinoa falafel for lunch on my way out. I was more than a little bit surprised to be contacted by Mastic a few days later to be informed that photo I’d posted on Instagram had actually won me a Mastic gift hamper! Thank you so much guys!
Anyway, seeing as we were going to Kew to collect my winnings over the weekend, and it had been a bit of a long and trying week, we figured it’d be a good excuse to finally treat ourselves to a nice lunch at Hellenic Republic (yes, I know, the shame of living in Melbourne and still not having visited this place). We arrived around 12:45 on Sunday afternoon and were fortunately seated straight away (I know there can be a bit of a wait sometimes, so happy days!) at the big communal table with a few other couples spread around.
Before I hit the food, I have to mention how amazing the service was; I think that a lot of the time the expectation is that a lot of “nicer” restaurants can get away with having shitty service, because the reputation and the (often overpriced) food is just so good. But the team here were fantastic – they took the time to make sure we were happy with our seating, to explain the menu and the fact that they’re happy and able to work with any special dietary requests, and it was all done with a smile. When you’re already expecting great things from the food, having fantastic service to go with it makes the world of difference and turns an already good experience into a really memorable one.
Let’s get to the food now. First up, the pita bread ($5.00) with the beetroot and feta dip ($10.00). Soft, warm pita with chunky beetroot, tasty crumbled feta and a great drizzle of olive oil. It sounds silly, but having such a gorgeous bright dish to start off with really set up our expectations for a fantastic meal, and we weren’t let down!
Next up, the kefalograviera saganaki with peppered figs ($15.00). This one stopped us both in our tracks – golden melted cheese is a thing of beauty as it is, but those caramelised, juicy, sweet figs were INCREDIBLE! I’d have happily eaten a bowl full of them and called it a day!!
Next up was the infamous grain salad ($13.00) – lentils, freekeh, nuts, herbs, yoghurt, pomegranate. If salad always tasted this good, a lot more people would be eating it. Crunchy and tasty and those little ruby pomegranate seeds were magic.
The grain salad was a perfect accompaniment to the main event: the slow roasted lamb shoulder (350g for $32.00). Wow. We knew we’d made the right choice when we looked up and realised that the other three couples sitting on the communal table with us had ordered the lamb and salad, too. It fell off the bone, was cooked perfectly, still just a little bit pink, and perfectly rendered fat with a few crispy charred bits to boot. The lemon yoghurt and sweet roasted garlic were just the cherries on top – absolutely perfect.
It’s pretty rare for us to get to the end of a meal without thinking “should have ordered that instead of this,” or “the salad was a waste of calories,” “over priced, the food wasn’t that good for what we spent” or something along those lines. We both agreed that not only was our order perfect (and obviously popular choices given the amount of other tables we saw with the exact same dishes), but this was easily the best Greek either of us have ever had, and well worth the money we paid for it. If, like me, you still haven’t visited Hellenic Republic, maybe you think it’s not worth the hype, just can’t be bothered, too expensive, learn from my mistake – believe the hype and make plans to visit this weekend. Kali orexi!