Hellenic Republic, Brunswick
Greek Sam at work raves about this place, so I had to to try Hellenic Republic and see how it compares to Calombaris’s other venues which I have rated well in the past. I walk out with a very positive experience with picture perfect service, a great atmosphere and mostly authentic-ish food that hits the mark. The only slight was there was a general under-seasoning of dishes across the board, a slight irony as I found Gazi to be a tad on the salty side. Blend them together and you’ve got perfection, but for now you still get a most excellent outcome at Hellenic Republic.
My friends Jo and Jeff and I headed into their Brunswick branch (there’s three now) for an earlier inner service. With toddler daughter Kaitlyn in tow, we dove right into the first starter items of pita bread ($5) with a Taramosalata (white cod roe dip) and Kapnisti Skordalia (smoked butternut pumpkin and candied almonds). The pita bread at Hellenic Republic is a nice, light style without the grease and the dips were both solid.We had a preference towards towards the cod roe one which has a pleasant creamy yoghurt-like quality without tasting too fishy at all. The pumpkin one was fine, just reminded me of the soup base I sometimes make and a bit less exciting on bread.
As a sharing menu, the mains all appear at the same time so we felt there was a bit of a (worthwhile) wait. The Kotopoulo Psistaria ($29) is chicken from the spit seasoned with garlic and oregano and served with a wedge of lemon. This is impressive quality meat, but here I couldn’t help feeling the flavour didn’t quite extend, so there was more than a few cases of topping up with the salt. The Arni Sto Fourno ($32) is the slow roasted lamb shoulder and it’s a majestic size with the meat again being delicious. It matched Sam’s description of falling off the bone and it sure does melt in your mouth.
The salads at Gazi and Hellenic Republic have been surprisingly memorable and I enjoyed my treat of the Kipriaki Salata Dimitriakon salad ($13) of grains, pulses, nuts and topped with yoghurt and pomegranate. The mix of grains, creaminess and sweetness is an appropriate and relevant contrast with the rest of the savoury items on our table. The pop of the currants were lovely and made for a luscious mix of textures that I could rather enjoy.
We were smashed over that, but I still gave the Risogalo ($11) rice pudding with salted caramel, almond shortbread crumble and pistachio a go. This little jar didn’t quite set my world on fire, it’s a fair rice pudding and the topping parts are interesting enough. The dessert wasn’t quite worth the price in my eyes but otherwise made for an enjoyable end for our night. Like Gazi, Hellenic Republic dishes out some good Greek-eating that is a crowd pleaser and there’s more than enough variety here in the menu to keep the masses coming. The dishes could have done with more punchier flavours but a worthwhile experience nonetheless.