The next big thing
The new kid on the block for ex-Piraeus Blues owner/operators John and Athanasia Rerakis, Philhellene sits comfortably on the border between traditional Greek fare and modern Australian adventure. We were lucky enough to grab a table between Christmas and New Year, when it seems most of Melbourne's restaurant scene goes on holidays.
The restaurant has a decidedly rustic feel to it from the moment you enter - exposed brick walls and lots of timber make you feel like you've discovered your long-lost-Greek-mamas house rather than a quality restaurant, but this is definitely a good thing: Philhellene's strength lies in the simplicity of the food, so the surrounds work to encourage the feeling of homeliness. Particularly clever use of a packed straw ceiling also help to keep the noise levels down - something most restaurants forget about entirely.
The menu ranges from the old favorites to new specials that change daily. While the traditional menu items are very good, it's rare to find the more interesting dishes presented in the specials, so be sure to try a few, at least. Of particular note was the stuffed eggplant entree ($14.50): a grilled eggplant slice wrapped around stuffing and topped with a chunky tomato sauce.
The wine list is small, but has good quality Australian wines at very reasonable prices as well as a few lesser-known internationals. We settled on a Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough NZ ($32/bottle) which was very food-friendly.
Mains were also from the specials list - make sure you try the kid goat: a tender, marinated rack that melted in the mouth, and the lamb and artichoke fricassee. Fancy presentation is not the point here: rather it's about good quality, wholesome Greek food with more than a dash of middle-eastern influence. Servings are generous, so try to restrain the urge to order just one more dish. Our dessert of Greek donuts shared (so light, so tempting to have just one more...) between the table completed a very enjoyable evening.
Service throughout the night was very good. Despite my dining companion's tendency to always complain about poor service, he came away telling me how good it was, and that I must mention our waitress. So congratulations, Emma, in impressing him you've achieved what I thought impossible!
Philhellene is the kind of Greek that I'd go back to: good value, interesting and wholesome without being pretentious. Hopefully the off-the-beaten-track location will work in their favour.
- Seafood stuffed mushrooms
- Stuffed Eggplant
- Stuffed Zuccini flower
- Roast Kid Goat
- Lamb Fricassee
- Stuffed Calamari
- Greek donuts (Loukoumades)
Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, NZ) $32/bottle