It’s been a looong time coming, but George Calombaris’s westside behemoth Hellenic Hotel is finally open in Williamstown. The third in the Hellenic Republic family, the double storeyed Greek eatery has taken the site of the former Hobsons Bay Hotel and transformed it into a lofty ceilinged, mosaic tiled, industrial-edged vision in signature blues and white.
We took a rare trip over the Westgate for the soft opening and can confirm it’s just as good as we were expecting. Maybe even better. And exceptionally moist. But more on that later.
Headed up by young gun chef Josh Pelham, the Hellenic Hotel kitchen will be pumping out modern Greek food and wine—with many of your faves from the Kew and Brunswick outposts making the cut—with an 80-90 seater restaurant downstairs, and a seriously sexy public bar and astroturfed balcony upstairs.
After settling ourselves at a table for two, we swiftly ordered a Kosmo, with the tasty take on the classic cocktail served in a cute-as little bottle, Instagram fodder at its finest. For the eats we bypassed the à la carte and went straight for the Feed Me menu, an epic selection of seven courses—snacks, cheese, fish, salad, vegetables, meat, and something sweet—served at the whim of the chef, but taking into account any dietary requirements or outright aversions.
While any normal human being would be on serious struggle street trying to fit in all the deliciousness, our superhero power is finding extra stomach space and we are proud (ashamed?) to say we demolished every last scrap. Starting with the warm olives, fluffy flatbread and moreish smoked eggplant dip, moving through the out-of-this-world saganaki, served with clove-spiked apple puree and black sesame lavosh, to the squid ink kritharaki (risoni) with mini mussels and fennel.
About 87% full at this point, we nevertheless gobbled down half a HH rotisserie chook, a Cypriot grain salad, and side of heirloom carrots with fenugreek and slivered almonds. Sooo…remember earlier when we made you squirm with the word ‘moist’? Well, we’re about to do it again, because this chook is hands down, no word of a lie, the moistest, juiciest, plumpest, tastiest bird in town. We were still pondering how something can be so moist as we smashed our little pots of creamy, dreamy rice pudding with rhubarb, washed down with a Greek mountain tea.
Thankfully our queries were resolved as we stole a fan-girl moment with Calombaris on the way out. Apparently the secret lies in three days of poultry prep, a long, slow, low turn on the rotisserie (which turns tantalisingly before your very eyes in the open kitchen), and the happiest birds going round. Plus a little secret somethin’ somethin’ right at the end.
Hellenic Hotel is now open at 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey White