Photography by: Mr LB
“If you want to be rich – feed to the poor” [anonymous]
Within the restaurateur circles of Melbourne, it has become apparent that the good times of easy profit margins are no longer available. Armed with an array of food bloggers and friend circles, Melbournians are becoming increasingly more food savvy. They know that they don’t have to buy that $100 bottle of red wine or accept small portions with exorbitant prices. Restaurateurs are increasingly realising that to truly differentiate themselves from the crowd, they need to offer their consumers a dining experience that is truly unique, full of flavour with a wow factor to make it worth the price tag.
The message seems to have been heard loud and clear by George Colombaris. Like a Lazarus rising, Colombaris has transformed the former high-brow Press Club into a loud, boisterous and welcoming Gazi, enticing those who venture in with his modern take on Greek street food.
Gazi, or ‘gas’, takes its name from a suburb in Athens that is quickly growing into one of Greece’s top hubs for nightlife, food, art and culture. High aspirations, but from what we saw, Colombaris might just pull it off. You can’t speak of Gazi without mentioning the waves of terracotta pots – around 3,600 of them – suspended on the ceiling. The clever use of mirrors accentuates this visual effect, and the backgammon tables adds a nice final touch, creating the feeling of intimacy and familiarity – just what you’d want from a Greek restaurant.
Relying on the mati (eye) to ward off any evil pots falling on our heads, we were welcomed warmly by the staff and seated very quickly. Glancing at the menu, it didn’t take us too long to realise that it was all about Greek love; designed to be shared and more heavily geared towards the meat lovers . While it did look enticing, we weren’t sure whether we had the stamina to par for the ‘Doing it Greek Style’ dinner banquet, instead ordering a mixture of Ethnika Vromica (Hellenic dirty) dishes, souvlakakias (small souvas), a salad with drinks.
First to arrive off the street of Gazi were the crispy lamb brains and grilled eggplant. The lamb brain was the early runaway favourite with its crumbed surface having just the right level of crunch to give way to its creamy interior. Without a hint of offal taste, the winning duo of charred leak and crumbed brains elevated the dish to a whole new level. The pickled grapes gave just the right kick to end what was a well thought out dish. The eggplant was also a great opener; grilled to perfection and well sautéed with the gaia dressing, left no hint of dryness. The nutty texture combined with the cheese toppings proved to be just the right combination to set this dish apart.
Next stop was the cone-shaped souvlakakai of beef brisket & lightly fried duck. If the lamb brain kicked-off as the runaway favourite, the duck souvlakakai was its Mackybe Diva. The sweetness of the poached pear perfectly balanced the typical dryness of the crumb duck and chips. The confluence of their flavours brought the souvlakaki together in what could only be described as pure bliss. The beef brisket did not play second fiddle and held its own ground. While the brisket was more tender than you’d expect and the rub permeated the lovely meaty flavour. Each souvlakakai was served with a bed of chips.
As a side to the souvlakakai, the beetroot salad offered just the right pretense that we really were serious about maintaining a ‘balanced’ diet. The beetroot had a lovely fresh taste as it had been baked to perfection. While the subtle beetroot salad was nice it wasn’t perfectly matched with the expected dryness of the souvlakakai.
By this point, we were quite content, but there is always room for dessert. On this occasion we elected to have the brulee. It wasn’t your typical brulee as it was purposely served cold. There was an interesting interplay of the sweet taste of the vanilla bean with the dobs of dates and roughness of the Turkish delight crumble. It was the perfect sweet to end this occasion without being two rich, ideal to share with another and with an unusual combination to intrigue the palate.
Gazi is the perfect example of a well-executed business model change. Going from a fine-dining institution to Greek street food could have been a fall from grace. While the vision of the menu has changed, the quality of the food has been maintained. It’s the perfect place for all occasions, whether it be date night or bonding with your team mates from work after completing a project. Gazi is worth visiting.
Sun – Sat: 12 – 4pm, 5:30 – 10pm