St Katherine’s

May 16, 2012

26 Cotham Road, Kew

Note: St Katherines is now Hellenic Republic Kew, under the direction of George Calombaris.
My extended family and I had Mother’s Day lunch at St Katherine’s this year. We booked the large table near the kitchen which is nice and wide and afforded for a pleasantly familial atmosphere. It seems that we have a bit of a soft spot for restaurants from the Made Establishment for Mother’s Day; last year was spent at the Hellenic Republic where, like today, we had a set menu. This Mother’s Day, the menu was brought to us by the boys and their mothers. As my Uncle joked dryly “First course: George’s mum, roasted! Second course: Shane’s mother-in-law, braised!”
Several bottles of white open, the lunch began as waiters brought us the first course. One thing you can be sure of with restaurants by Shane and George: they know how to cater for large groups. All the staff were friendly, knowledgeable and efficient, and the entire lunch worked like clockwork. They’re also very good at catering to dietary requirements. My Aunt is pregnant and various foods don’t agree with her, so they were quick to provide special dishes for her (e.g. a soup and a dessert that were dairy free).
First up was a beautiful yoghurt soup with lamb dumplings, rice and mint. It was gently warmed and had a surprisingly delicate, slightly lemony taste. I suspect the lamb dumplings are the same as used in their turkish dumpling with garlic sauce dish (see my review here). I thought it was the perfectly appropriate starter to a Mother’s Day lunch, warming, soulful and homely!
Prentice Ramato from Whitlands, Victoria. Quite nice, rather fruity without being too sweet. Ramato is an old method of making pinot gris, where the grapes are crushed and left on the skin to develop a “copper-like colour, rich texture and crisp acidity”. You learn something new every day…
After soup came a series of small dishes that formed the Mezze course. Wood fired turkish bread came in paper bags, and olives came in fel fel (a sauce they also use at Maha) which is made from bread and chili.
Fried spaghetti pancakes – seriously…? Meh, I could take or leave these, flavoursome but a tad boring, though I suppose they’d be very popular with all the kids.
St Kat’s bacon chips with french onion dip. The onion dip was lovely with a smooth consistency and subtle flavour (though I question how french onion dip fits under the Greek-Turkish-Middle Eastern umbrella). The chips were fun, I’m interested to hear how they’re made!
This is pickled winter greens, cumin, shaved basturma and eggs. For some reason, this just didn’t appeal to me. I liked the idea, but those greens were absolutely dripping in an acidic juice. I understand the whole point of pickling is to make things sour, but this was just too much and neither the egg nor the basturma could balance it.
Eggplant briam yoghurt, which when I first glanced at the menu I read as “eggplant brain yoghurt”, which freaked the hell out of me. This was delicious, reminiscent of peperonata. Soft pieces of eggplant reduced with a beautiful, light tomato sauce.
The final dish was a carrot and calamari coleslaw with pickled red onion and saffron mayo. I’m sorry to say it, but I hated this. For some reason the combination of carrot, calamari and mayo didn’t do it for me.

When I thought back on the mezzes, while most of the dishes were excellent in isolation, eating them all together meant you ended up with disjointed and incongruous tastes in your mouth. Even eating them one after the other, as I did, I found it very difficult to appreciate anything after the second dish. Who has eggplant stew with french onion dip with mayonnaise calamari coleslaw all at once? They just didn’t work.

Thankfully, the mains redeemed the meal for me: they were all brilliant and cheered me up after a disappointing start. They matched together much better than the mezzes, and there was a sense of harmony moving from one dish to the next.
The grilled swordfish with peas, tahini and almonds was blissful; grilled to perfection and sweetened by those darling little peas. Love the taste from a chargrill. We were also served a plate of pork and beef meatballs (no photo, sorry, my family are vultures) that came in a thick tomato sauce and were soft and moist.
Hands down the best dish of the day was the pork belly with pomegranate, grapes and pine nuts. The pork was succulent and fell apart easily with sheets of fat blanketing the meat. Spectacular sweetness from the fruit and excellent crackling. Ticks all around.
The final dish was a bit of a foodie revelation for me: mashed potato with feta cheese and a stifatho sauce (like an onion gravy). Who is this genius who decided to put feta cheese with mash + gravy? Loved the salty bite from the feta. This was incredible and, like the soup, evoked a homeliness that suited the occasion.
Dessert was a hot chocolate pudding with drunken cherries, orange blossom ice cream, salty oats and a cheeky little bit of caramel. To use a phrase coined by Melbourne Gastronome, pretty much my wet dream of a dessert. SUCH an excellent dessert, great contrast in temperature and texture, wonderfully boozy cherries. Win.
In all, an excellent meal at St Kat’s, would gladly repeat next year! Also, all the mothers on the table were given little lemon meringue cupcakes to take home, how considerate. My mum is allergic to eggs so my brother and I gleefully tucked into it with tea later that evening!

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Filed under: Greek, Kew, Middle Eastern, Turkish