ElyrosSeptember 7, 2015
871 Burke Road, Camberwell
Father’s Day lunch was my pick this year (let’s face it, it’s my pick every year) – and knowing Dad, I was looking for something smart but not fussy, with good, wholesome food that didn’t involve foams, emulsions or other “cheffy” tricks. For Dad’s 60th a little while ago, we ate at Epocha, the much loved Italian-Greek restaurant of Angie Giannakodakis and Guy Holder. Epocha is awesome, and I’ll certainly write about it another time, but this time around I was keen on Angie and Guy’s new Cretian restaurant in Camberwell, Elyros (owned with fellow Cretan Disa Dimitrakakis).
I’m not going to beat around the bush here – Elyros is fantastic. I loved the interiors, I loved the staff, but most of all I loved the food. I wouldn’t say I was skeptical, but Epocha had set a very high bar, so it is a real achievement for the team to replicate that standard while also giving Elyros a slightly different style.
Elyros perches on a street corner, overlooking Camberwell station and busy Burke Road. You’d think it would at least have a whisper of the busy atmosphere from outside. But walking in, it’s like being transported to an upmarket Green tavern. White walls, dark brown furniture and the occasional marble and ceramic touch lends the restaurant a refined Greek air. It’s hospitable and comfortable, but still elegant. The families eating there on Father’s Day are almost wholly Greek, including my family and I (and like picking a Korean BBQ place based on where the Koreans eat, the same principle applies to Greek restaurants). The staff are friendly, knowledgeable beyond belief about the menu, and all (at least the ones who served us) seemed to speak Greek and have a real passion for the food. Wine guy Tom Eveno has a great knack for Greek wine (underrated, in my view), and we had a fantastic red to enjoy with our meal.
But enough of the people! What of the food? Well, the bread and dried Cretan husks were delicious dipped in grassy olive oil and smeared with a whipped feta concoction that reminded me of home. Then there was a creamy fava, a dip made from yellow split peas with some capers and piquant shaved onion. Also to start, a plate of sensational bacalhau croquettes, salty and creamy and garlicky in all the right ways. Some of the best I’ve had.
Then came a delicate little dish of chargrilled quails and puy lentils with stinging nettles. The quails were marinated in a bastourma-style spices (think cumin, fenugreek, garlic and paprika), it was sweet but salty and slightly aniseed-like. Quails were cooked until tender pink, and the lentils had a pleasant bite to them. It was very clear by this point that chef Yiannis Kasidokostas knows what he’s doing. We were in good hands.
The biggest course included a shared hunk of slow, wet roasted lamb with potatoes and a herby green salad. Just what I had in mind for a chilly Sunday afternoon!
The lamb was a serious standout. Forkable, sticky and caramelised, it was everything lamb should be. Like any good Greek girl, I’ve got a big soft spot for slow cooked lamb, it’s my go-to dinner party dish, and I find it hard to turn down lamb on a menu. The lamb at Elryos would have to be up there with some of my favourites. Sensationally good, bravo!
Even the green salad was great! This is something I’ve also noticed at Epocha. The simplest of green salads can be lifted to something else with some properly fresh greens, a few interesting herbs and a punchy dressing. Additions like walnuts and feta can only improve things, in my book.
I remember when we arrived and our waitress confirmed it was a set lunch menu. “Like going to someone’s house,” she said, “you leave the decisions up to us”. The picture of my dinner plate below only reinforces her words – eating at Elyros does feel (and look) a bit like eating at someone’s house: uncomplicated and inviting. Of course, the food is a notch or two above, but the well-known Greek generosity and warmth shines through.
After some time to finish our wine, desserts arrived. Because mum is allergic to egg, they fixed up a dessert specially for her – red wine poached pears, chocolate halva puree, honeycomb and a jelly of some sort (ouzo?). Savoury and slightly bitter (the honeycomb was taken quite far), this was a great “grown ups only” kind of dessert.
Mum’s dessert was great, in particular those sticky pears and the genius of that chocolate halva puree. But that was nothing compared to the thing of beauty that arrived for us. Ekmek kataifi, otherwise known as my new obsession, is a Turkish-style cold layered pudding. The base at Elyros is a crunchy, fragrant layer of kataifi pastry that has been soaked in syrup. Above this is a layer of mastic custard, made the traditional Greek way with white semolina, and then a thin layer of thickly whipped cream. It’s topped with a scoop of ice cream, a cherry syrup and a few pistachios. The result is a smooth, refreshing and aromatic dessert. In short, it’s f-cking fantastic. I could have happily stolen the entire dish back home and eaten it by myself on the couch!
How about that for a Sunday lunch? At Elyros, think of everything you love about Greek food, but with a slightly new slant. Don’t come here expecting the usual trio of dips, kalamatas and gyros. This is the smart stuff. Oh yes, and if I forgot to mention earlier, all of this lovely food was just $45 per head, and they do a similar menu every Sunday lunch. You can thank me later.
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