On a recent trip to Melbourne with Al to attend the International Coffee Expo, we had one of the best restaurant experiences we’ve had in a long time. George Calombaris’ latest offering Gazi had a lot to live up to as we are big fans of his other baby Mama Baba. At Gazi you feel like a valued guest, you eat gorgeous contemporary Greek food and you just have a really good time.
Gazi not only offers up tasty eats but also provides a visual treat for the eyes. From the outside the restaurant has a red and orange glow. Inside, the ceiling is simply stunning with hundreds and hundreds of what I’m guessing would be plastic ‘terracotta’ pots. You’d end up with a nasty headache if a real terracotta pot dropped on your head. The interior is urban cool with polished concrete floors and soft lighting. Detail is everywhere, from the custom made blue and white plates to the waiters handyman belts to carry the tools of their trade. It’s not a large space so tables are quite close together but this didn’t seem to bother us, we were too busy enjoying the Greek feast served to us.
The menu is designed for sharing so there really is something to suit all tastes here but after talking with our lovely waitress we decided on ‘Doing it Greek Style’, a feast of ten sharing plates of the chefs choice for $69 per person. It was the best way to sample a cross section of the menu.
Shortly after ordering our drinks (mine, passionfruit and chilli house-made soda), the bread and dips arrived. Bread and dips, no big deal, right?… wrong. I could have happily eaten this all night. The bread was warm and soft and the dips (tzatziki and hummus), creamy and full of flavour, so tasty I had to keep reminding myself that I had 9 other dishes coming.
Next to arrive was the Saganaki Kumquat. Fried cheese (a mix of cow and sheeps milk) served with a sweet, slightly sour kumquat sauce. Just writing this is making my mouth water! This was quickly followed by beautifully poached salmon with a walnut crust, fat chips with feta and oregano an iceberg lettuce salad with a piquant dressing and two tasty plump king prawns (unfortunately I have no idea what the dressing was, I might have to ask George on twitter). Simple food but beautifully prepared with care.
Although we were starting to feel a little full, we were excited when the pork belly with white beans and apple skordalia and the crispy chicken with tirokafteri (capsicum and feta puree) was placed in front of us. The pork was juicy and the apple sauce tart enough to balance the rich meat but the star here was definitely the chicken. It was sensational. Moist and moreish, it’s worth going back for.
Thankfully, we had a small break before desserts were served; creme brulee and Loukomathes (deep fried donuts). The donuts were a little heavy for me but the creme brulee was light as a feather, the usual burnt sugar crunchy top replaced with nuts, praline, date puree and little pieces of Turkish delight. A heavenly end to the meal.
The enthusiasm of the staff is infectious, nothing is too much trouble. At the end of our meal we asked if we could sit at the bar stools overlooking the kitchen and they happily helped us move our coffee and wine. We sat for another half an hour chatting with a young chef and marvelling at the intricate choreography of a busy kitchen. For foodie lovers it was a real highlight and a great way to end a beautiful evening. We even had a visit from George who was happy to pose for a photo.
Gazi is good value for money. You won’t leave hungry and all your senses will be well sated. We’ll be back for a souvlaki lunch next time we are in town. Opa!
2 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9207 7444