It’s not just the name George Calombaris that is keeping patrons queuing – it’s also the contemporary menu and warm hospitality
George Calombaris’s Hellenic Hotel.
WITH almost 150,000 Instagram followers, an adoring national fan club and a profile that spans the seas, you could understand if George Calombaris simply phoned it in. But, as one of the hardest-working people in the game, the chef is not inclined to take the easy option. His laser-like focus animates the newest addition to his Hellenic Republic empire.
The west has clearly already been won over by the makeover of this former pub in Williamstown, where it took the best part of a month to get our Sunday lunch booking. That’s the power of Calombaris, sure, but also the appeal of contemporary Greek food.
Any “celebrity chef” hype is overshadowed by genuine hospitality, from the warm welcome through to the offer of packaging up our excess lunch to take away.
Little dishes to start showcase quirky twists on classics: prawn toast is paired with tarama enlivened with sriracha, while spiced lamb is prepared with feta scorched olive. Signature saganaki, the salty molten cheese, is served with a crisp edge and topped with stewed and fresh apple and a black sesame crisp. Octopus shares the stage with broad beans, nettles and roasted Jerusalem artichokes to alluring effect.
Hats off for putting lambs brain souva on the menu, too, where little crunchy-creamy nuggets snuggle into a pocket of chewy pita along with onion rings, while the rotisserie chicken takes care of the less adventurous in no less appetising fashion.
There’s a good showing of Greek wines on the tight list, and a $10 pint of Hellenic Ale, brewed by nearby Two Birds with a hint of mountain tea, is the perfect partner to a sunny day. This Greek twist on a gastro-pub is buzzy, bright and breezy. That phone is rightfully running hot.
From top: the eatery in a former pub in Williamstown, the the luminous interior.
3.5/5 $$$ 28 Ferguson St, Williamstown hellenicrepublic. com.au