Seriously. How is it that Melbourne’s Greek restaurants are so rubbish? It’s as if there’s a formula that gets passed around: a little Saganaki here, a little Taramasalata there. Chuck in a couple of fishing nets and a Doric column and you are done. Actually another column would be good, perhaps something a bit more fancy like a Corinthian column would be nice. Yeah, now we’re done. Maybe, just maybe, things are a changin’.
It feels as though there is a new wave of Greek eateries popping up in Melbourne that are doing their darndest to show that Greek food can be more than the stereotype that has prevailed for the last few decades. Take George Calombaris’s restaurants as an example. The Press Club is our first Greek influenced fine dinning experience and Hellenic Republic is a top chef’s take on traditional Greek food. I loved my visit to Hellenic Republic, but my favourite Greek eatery is hands down Demitri’s Feast in Swan Street, Richmond.
It’s my favourite because it manages to balance a rustic simplicity with the polish that is demanded of Melbourne cafes. The fact that Demitri’s Feast serves Greek food that is more authentic than the status quo is enough. But it’s the extra bits that make it great.
For a start, the coffee is excellent. Truth is, it doesn’t need to be. People would turn up for the food regardless. Then again the owner Jim used to be the Victorian rep for Illy, so the coffee was always going to be top notch. Thankfully he’s had the presence of mind to ditch the Illy in favour of Allpress Espresso.
Then there’s the pithy wine list. Six cracking wines from boutique producers that change from week to week, usually showcasing more interesting varietals. In winter they offer four reds and two whites and the reverse in summer. That’s all you need in a cafe; a couple of good things to choose from.
These are boxes that need to be ticked if you want to be a contender in Melbourne. And a contender this place is indeed. At least according to The Age Cheap Eats guide, which awarded it the title of Melbourne’s Best Breakfast. Nice one Jimmy.
Though the credit probably shouldn’t solely go to Jim. The food is in no small part a tribute to what his mother cooked for him as a child. That and the food he ate when he visited his family’s hometown of Karteroli near Kalamata. Lots of seafood, slow cooked meat dishes, loads of herbs and spices. He’s lucky enough to have his mum do some baking for the cafe. If you visit Demitri’s Feast, be on the lookout for her homemade biscuits. Nice one mum.
Demitri’s Feast. Rustic Greek food with a little pizzazz. That’s right, I just used the word pizzazz in a sentence. Next week I will use the words trendy and jazzy. It’s good to have goals. Like Duchess of Spotswood, this is one of those places that I recommend to friends without reservation. Run, don’t walk to Demitri’s Feast. You will love it. I did.