For our final meal on the Gold Coast before heading back to the Melbourne was at the newly opened Hellenika. This place has the food base of Hellenic Republic but without the 3-month waiting list and stuffiness that surrounds it. The restaurant is situated once again in Nobby’s Beach by the Gold Coast Highway and within walking distance of the shoreline. It is a fabulous Greek restaurant dishing up authentic Greek cuisine that hits the closest to dishes that were served in Athens’ Greece and it’s surrounding islands when I visited recently.
The interior is bare red brick walls with paintings of the 3 main Greek food groups – Chicken, Lamb and Goat. It has a traditional charcoal grill and is homely enough to entice return visits. Wooden tables and chairs are positioned in the room to take full advantage of either the view of the sunset or of the kitchen.
The menu is based around Greek basics done well. You have a choice of the Signature or Standard Menu. As we were being foodie as possible and eating around 4 meals a day we opted for the standard and chose a mix of dishes to share. To begin we started small with the Mezedes (small plates of food best accompanied with a drink) and worked ourselves up to the larger dishes. Saganaki was first to hit the table – a grilled sheep’s milk cheese was to be eaten quickly after squeezing a burst of lemon over the top. The grilled outer layer gave the cheese a smokiness that would have otherwise been missing.
My mum had been talking up the Kolokithia - zucchini chips - with a vengeance. The batter was similar to what is found in Japanese tempura but with the addition of a small amount of lightly grated cheese. I would have preferred a little less oil but this was a Greek restaurant so I would expect nothing less.
The Spanikopita was a revelation. I am not one to get excited about spinach and feta filo pastries and the filo did look like it was going to be a little too dense and thick. But biting into the large parcel of wonderful got me by the horns. And lucky that the serves were so large because if they were the usual small size I would have gone back for seconds. The filo pastry was just that – perfectly light and crispy.
The local pan-fried calamari was the closest thing I have seen in an Aussie Greek restaurant that harkens back to what you would expect to receive in Greece. The octopus was not battered, but grilled to give it a pungent smokiness and then drizzled (aka drowned) in virgin olive oil.
We also opted for what the waitress described as the ‘safe’ Greek salad – but it was perfectly matched with all the dishes we ordered.
Bada Boom – Salty Pork Belly with Leeks. This dish was a nice little serve of heaven. The meat was perfectly tender, nicely seasoned and the crackling hit the spot. No issues with the dish – just that when you are having to share it with 4 people you only get a few pieces – but what pieces they are.
We were tossing up which large dish we should choose. We were initially leaning towards the stifado – 6-hour beef cheek and onion stew. But we opted for their signature dish, the 5-hour slow cooked shoulder of lamb. It left us speechless as it melted in our mouths. The lamb was accompanied by some of the best potatoes I have ever had in my life. I am not sure how they were cooked but I am going to ask next time I visit so that I can give them a crack at home. I have been told that so many orders come through for this dish that at times you will find yourself missing out so ordering ahead is a good idea.
Simon Gloftis’ hospitality backgrounds shines through with the wait staff being on song helping to create a foodie hub for locals. A great location and uplifting atmosphere, this is one that deserves a few return visits. A great option to eat at before a flight out from the Gold Coast Airport too – leave on an even higher note.
Must try: Shoulder of Lamb
Steer Clear: If you like meat you may not need a salad.
Price per head inc drinks: $45
2235 Gold Coast Highway
Nobby Beach, Gold Coast
Tel. (07) 5572 8009