Melbourne is a fascinating melting pot of multiculturalism. Your ability to access a wide range of cuisines is within reach inside the bustling CBD. One of those culinary delights is George Calombaris’ Gazi Restaurant.
George Calombaris is one of the judges on Australia’s version of Masterchef. George’s Gazi restaurant is located at 2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, on the corner of busy Flinders Street.
The winner of our last giveaway suggested we head to Gazi restaurant to experience what it has to offer. After our recent trip to Greece we were tempted by the thought of some more excellent Greek food.
Gazi is extremely popular with the residents of Melbourne, so I do recommend booking well in advance. We called in at lunchtime to book and were offered the last two seats on their communal table. If you can’t book, then you can try waiting in line hoping for someone to finish early so they can fit you in. Another option is to look at their takeaway option, and dine in the comfort of your home or hotel accommodation.
Our booking was for 8:30pm and upon arriving at the restaurant, there was a line up out the door of customers trying their luck to get a spare table. As we made our way through the crowd to the front reception, we were greeted by the restaurants maître d’hôtel and quickly escorted to our table. Due to the popularity, the Gazi staff try to fit as many customers into their service area as possible. They have communal long tables where small groups can sit together if they wish, or you can be seated by the bar. They do exceptionally well at turning over their patrons to allow more customers in to taste their exquisite Greek cuisine.
The interior of the restaurant is very well set out, with single tables along the Flinders street side of the restaurant and group booths alongside the Exhibition street side. The main floor is a mixture of small tables that can be grouped to make room for larger parties, and of course the communal long tables next to the bar. The roof decorations were very interesting with small terracotta pots set at different heights to create a terracotta wave. The restaurant had that nightclub bar atmosphere with mood lighting and up tempo house music pumping loudly around the room. In my opinion the music was probably too loud on this night, as it was hard to converse with my dinner guest.
The staff is in one word, exceptional. They always knew when you were ready to order or ask for assistance. The service was quick and attentive, even with a packed full restaurant that was already on its second sitting for the night. The staff even offered to hang up our jackets on little coat hooks well positioned around the room.
Gazi offers a solid menu, with many modern Hellenic dishes available. If you choose from the a la carte menu then you are looking at paying around AUD$28-$30 for your main meals. The best option and value would be to select their “Doing it Greek Style” seven course tasting plates for AUD$49 pp or the 10 course tasting plate for AUD$69 pp.
For our meal we decided to try the seven course tasting plate with some wine. The wine list is extensive with some quality wines from around Australia and Greece. Glasses sell for around AUD$12 and bottles from AUD$50 for an everyday quality bottle to a AUD$260 indulgent red or white.
The first course to arrive at the table was fresh soft pita bread and two quality dips, a creamy tzatziki and a beautiful sweet flavoured Beetroot feta and walnut praline. I could have honestly been happy just snacking on these quality dips for the whole night. The staff offered more bread each time we finished what we had, which was nice given the dips were large serves.
The second tasting plate to arrive at our table was a classic Cheese Saganaki with a modern kumquat syrup twist. The kumquat syrup brought a sweetness to the cheesy texture so we found ourselves scrapping our beautiful máti decorated plates to try get every morsel. The blue máti eye symbols on the plates are found throughout Greece to ward off evil spirits so they are a nice touch.
Our third tasting plate to arrive was a Chicken Tyrokafteri with walnut dressing. This wood fire spitted meat is succulent and the walnut dressing gives it that extra crunchy texture. Such an excellent dish definitely worth considering when you visit. The accompanying dish was also well presented, but not what we were expecting. Gazi’s Tiganites Palates is basically chips with crumbled feta, dressed with garlic oil and oregano. A nice combination of flavours, but we didn’t associate chips with Greece so were surprised to see it. Saying that, we could not fault this dish, and struggled to finish the whole bowl.
At this stage we are getting a little full and start to leave some of the dishes unfinished, because we know we have three dishes remaining. Our ever attentive waiter brings out our fifth and sixth courses together. The fifth is a salted green bean salad topped with almonds and the sixth is Tuna Kebabs. The green bean salad had that hint of salt and were perfectly blanched thus having that perfect crunch. We divided the Tuna Kebab between us and devoured the beautifully seared tuna holding in the flavours of the sea.
Looking at each other we knew that dessert remained and wondered if we could possibly fit it in. When the waiter brought out our Loukoumades covered with Honey Nutella, we forgot that our stomachs were full and ate the dish with our eyes. These beautiful fried balls of goodness were delicious so topped off an excellent night in a stunning city.
Overall George Calombaris’s Gazi Restaurant is a fantastic place to eat. It has a hip casual dining experience feeling, with fine dining quality food. From their website you can get there by catching the 35, 70, 71 or 75 trams getting off at Exhibition and Flinders. If you are in Melbourne then try Gazi Restaurant, and tell them Simon from Ourworldinreview sent you!
Rating: 1-10 (1=very poor, 10 = excellent)
Decor = 9
Atmosphere = 9
Service = 9
Price = 7
Overall = 9