Foodies have another reason to flock to the seaside suburb of Williamstown with the much-anticipated opening of George Calombaris’ and Travis McAuley’s Hellenic Hotel.
I was lucky enough to attend the soft launch earlier in the month to get a sneak peek of the restaurant and, of course, sample the menu.
Converted from one of the west’s most iconic pub buildings, the Hobsons Bay Hotel, the Hellenic Hotel opening has breathed new life into the heritage building. The façade still remains largely the same, but venture inside and you’ll be in for a treat.
It’s an incredibly handsome venue, with lofty ceilings and a distinct nautical feel. It plays on a kaleidoscope of ocean blues and, like all of Calombaris’ restaurants, pays homage to its Greek heritage by using the Greek Matiasma “the evil eye” on its plates. There’s plenty of exposed brick and piping which gives it a contemporary feel, warmed up by the use of greenery throughout the venue. Patrons have the option of dining in the buzzy tavern downstairs, or enjoying a cocktail and some pub fare in the public bar upstairs. There’s also a spacious verandah with spectacular views of the seaside and city skyline. Bring on summer in Williamstown!
Crafted by head chef Josh Pelham (ex Estelle), the menu showcases modern Greek dining, which Calombaris likes to call “Gastro Greek” – a Hellenic touch on great Ausssie pub food. Diners can expect to feast on freshly shucked oysters, local seafood and all the Greek classics like souvlakis, lamb and rotisserie chicken served piping hot from the open kitchen. The drinks menu features a great range of local and Hellenic wines and of course the traditional Greek aperitif- ouzo if you’re feeling game!
The feed me menu at $49 per person (seven courses), is a great option for the indecisive and/or hungry! And at the end of a chilly Melbourne day, this was the perfect option…
We started with a bowl of warm Mount Zero Olives marinated in garlic, thyme and olive oil paired with freshly baked pita and taromosalata (white cod roe dip). This was so good we had to request more pita to mop up every last bit.
This was followed by a sizzling plate of saganaki, finished with apple, clove and black sesame which gave the dish a delicate spicy flavour and a touch of sweetness. With a gorgeous golden gleam on top, the fried cheese literally oozed from the middle upon cutting.
A comforting bowl of kritharaki was infused with squid ink to give it a jet black colour and finished with a sprinkling of mussels and fennel. This was definitely one of the highlights of the evening.
Straight from the rotisserie, the chicken was succulent and tender, with a crispy golden skin. The side dishes included a heirloom carrot salad with fenugreek and roasted almonds and my personal favourite – beetroot paired with sumac and a dusting of pistachios.
We finished on a sweet note with a risagolo (a rice pudding of sorts) topped with rhubarb and candied pistachios. Next time I have my sight set on the pavlova which looked large enough to serve a small army, and the passionfruit loukoumades. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
Hellenic Hotel makes a welcome addition to Williamstown and will no doubt develop a loyal following from locals and tourists alike. It may be two years overdue, but it was certainly worth the wait.