That might be said of any venue in the Con Christopoulos stable, which recently grew again with the arrival of Kafeneion, a low-key Greek restaurant a couple of doors down from his storied Angel Music Bar at the top end of Bourke Street, where sweetbreads and fava hit the table flanked with ouzo and tsipouro.
Kafeneion, you say. “In Greece,” starts co-owner Stavros Konis, “every neighbourhood, town and village has a kafeneion: a meeting place where people catch up for a drink, a wholesome meal, a snack or a late-night supper.”
Melbourne now has its own, and it’s one of the best additions a hungry midnight marauder could ask for. From peas and artichokes braised in lemon and olive oil to some lesser-seen juice from the island of Santorini, here’s what to order according to co-owners Stavros Konis and Con Christopolous.
How about a drink?
Stavros Konis: Our two standout cocktails are the Mastiha Sour and the Maria Callas. We’ve selected the best spirits, beers and wines from Greece that are available. We also have our favourite local wines some made by home-grown Greeks: Steve Kimonides from Kanenas Wines and Achilles Kalanis from Symposiarch Wines, both of whom produce interesting varieties from Victoria.
I’m here for a good time not a long time.
SK: As a pre-dinner apéritif, it’s hard to go past the wide selection of ouzos and tsipouros. As a snack, we love lakerda: fish cured in ouzo and salt, toursi (pickled veg), pastourma (cured beef), and pan-fried livers.
Got anything light and fresh?
SK: The garfish and the classic lettuce marouli salad are perfect for something light and fresh.
What if I like tasty food but don’t eat animals?
Con Christopolous: Vegans love us. Order fava, a warm dip of yellow split peas; briam, roasted vegetables in tomato; and the araka, pea and artichoke braised in lemon and olive oil.
Name the dish that captures the Kafeneion vibe.
CC: Pan-fried sweetbreads with lemon and wild Greek oregano; you won’t get this anywhere else. All over Greece there’s a culture of eating ‘nose to tail’: nothing is wasted. In a kafeneion setting offal always finds its way to the table.
Let’s go big. Let’s go crazy. What have you got for me?
SK: For larger groups, we offer an $80 set menu which is nearly the whole menu spread over four courses. Skip breakfast beforehand.
CC: All our classic home-cooked dishes – ‘ladera’ – come in small or large. Order one of each and wash it down with a glass of the avaton from Gerovasiliou in Greece, our favourite wine on the list; a lovely winter experience.
And to close?
SK: The portokalopita, an orange filo cake, and the halva with sesame ice-cream – you must have both. Finish with a vinsanto from Santorni.