Hellenic Republic boast modern stylish fittings which are a beacon of renewal in a quieter stretch of road on the Northern reaches of Lygon St. Having a feeding tube from George Calombaris, I had previously avoided this place based on my ill-amiable encounters with Press Club (too pretentious). But I have enjoyed Maha on several instances too. And after several mentions of this Greek Tavern-styled restaurant by someone whose culinary tastes I trust 98% of the time, I decided now was the time to make my booking.
I hadn’t realised it was open early on weekends until taking note of that while visiting Brunswick East Project a couple of weeks ago. So instead of an early breakfast or brunch, early lunch (read 11am early) was on the cards. As it turned out, this choice of earlier dining is great if you tend to avoid fully packed restaurants. There were several groups of diners by the time we sat down at 11.15am, and the place filled out a little more throughout the course of our meal, but the place was never more than half filled. The noise levels were reasonable and table conversation is absolutely easy-as with no raised decibels required.
I like the view of the bar as you enter, followed by the roast in the corner of the open-kitchen. It’s certainly a visual attraction for diners. The service staff were friendly, all-smiles when at the table and helped us with recommendations which we were subsequently very pleased with. No issues with not writing down of orders as a recent diner’s negative comments on urbanspoon had eluded too.
There is a good selection of ouzo at your disposal, as well as white and red wines from Greece. My recommendation is to have the Samos Vin Doux AND Nectar side-by-side when you get to desserts. So do leave some space for that.
We started off with some warm fresh-baked pita bread which had lovely char grill lines ($4.50). The bread was to accompany the fava – a truffle scented split pea dip with shallots and capers ($9) and the Taramosalata – a white cod roe dip ($10). Both dips were well-prepared, rich flavours with the roe dip obviously stronger in intensity. The raw sliced shallots worked very well providing texture and extra flavour to the fava.
Before transitioning to our mains, we also has the Tyri Saganaki, which was Kefalograviera cheese with peppered figs ($14.50). This was a tad on the pricey side, but the cheese had a really nice texture, and the preparation of the figs made them match up with the savoury cheese perfectly.
Regarding portion sizes, I reckon that for four diners, ordering 2 serves of bread with 3 dips and perhaps another dish like the pickled octopus, would be a perfect start to your meal. One meat main would then be sufficient, leaving you comfortable space for desserts.
We had a mixed grain salad as a side for our mains.
The first of which I honestly wasn’t impressed with. This was the Kalamari me Myrothika – grilled calamari, parsley, garlic with a squeeze of lemon (DIY) for $22/plate. This wasn’t the biggest of plates and that is my main gripe. It’s more suited for a starter type of platter. You get the smokey grilled flavours in the calamari, but overall this was a less impressionable dish.
Much better was the Glossa – fried white flounder with cherry tomatoes, capers and burnt butter. Not the biggest of flounders (500g) for $34, but the preparation was close to perfect. Nice crispy skin gives a textural contrast to the sweet juicy meat underneath. I loved this one.
I also tried Mary’s Moussake ($22/plate), and whoever Mary was, she sure made a nice Moussake. Cutting past the white sauce topping, lovely soft eggplant mingled with rich meaty sauce. Very tasty!
Finally, it was dessert time. And I was pushing the limit of my gut by now. Of course there was no looking past the Loukoumathes Me Gemisma which was the first item on the dessert list. These are the glorious doughnuts filled with demolina custard, rolled in cinnamon, then garnished with a drizzle of cherry glyka ($12.50). While the custard filling wasn’t the most generous (in fact, a touch lacking), overall this was a fantastic tasting dessert which is a must try for anyone!
The Baklava Yianniotiki ($12.50) was also very nicely prepared. Not overly sweet which is something I’m particularly sensitive to, the pastry resting atop was perfectly crisp and flavours of the honey, nuts and grain mix was well-balanced.
The one oddity was the Kydoni Me Yiaourti ($12.50) which was the quince with yogurt and Melomakarona crumble. I thought the flavours a little too off-tangent for me, too spiced.
Overall, Hellenic Republic is a neat place for early lunch in an environment suitable for the family or a get-together with chums. I’ll be back for more ouzo in the near future. I’m curious as to whether service standard or food preparation changes when the place is more crowded or during dinner service. IMO, deserving of a higher rating than the 81% at present time.