What used to be the dark, intimate confines of the old Vault Hotel & Bar next to Martin Place has been transformed into a bright white space with rustic exposed brick walls and sleek modern finishes. Huge windows illuminate the room welcoming natural light, accentuating the huge space and echoing the white homes on the Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini.
The red lights hanging above the bar are dressed with a black tassel, just like the hats that ancient Greek soldiers used to wear. A striking Greek flag is imprinted across the wall, and two giant horses stand above the entrance guarding the door from possible enemy Trojan horses that might enter.Gorgeous plush white booths line the room, with a split level layout leading to an upstairs area with a fabulous vantage point to admire the room and absorb the intoxicating smells of Greek food wafting on your tastebuds. Settling on the comfortable upholstered seats, we examined the menu, which is separated into Small, Medium and Large plates. With so many tantalising dishes, we struggled on deciding what to choose.
From the small plates, we opted for the Greek San Choy Bow ($8 each) and Greekslaw Salad ($14). The Greekslaw was a fun delicious take on the traditional salad with a colourful array of freshly chopped purple cabbage, carrot, currants, mint, toasted almonds, spiced corn, graviera dressed with a creamy buttermilk aioli. The addition of sweet currants and crunchy spiced corn enhanced the salad creating new sweet flavor notes to contrast against the savoury elements. I loved this refreshing approach to such a classic. The Greek San Choy Bow consisted of smashed toasted tomato filled with herb and vegetable rice served in iceberg cups with a yoghurt lemon dressing, finished off with a sprig of dill. I had expected so much from this dish, however we quickly grew bored of the one dimensional flavour. I liked the contrasting textures from the crunchy fresh lettuce leaves against the warm soft gooey rice mixture but it somehow lacked zing.
The Medium plates had us stumped for choice, with so many enticing options we really didn’t know what to pick, so we indulgently settled on quite a few. I don’t usually like cheese but the Sesame Crusted Haloumi ($24) is something else. A gloriously thick slice of halloumi cheese is coated with sesame seeds, then fried to a gorgeous golden crispiness. The four pieces lay on a bed of hot quince purée with dried kalamata olives, finished with lightly roasted cherry tomatoes. The haloumi is not like the typical store bought variety, not at all rubbery but rather more soft, stretchy and almost gooey in consistency. I adored it! We couldn’t pass up Sydney’s favourite menu item at the moment of BBQ Octopus ($27) Little tentacles were paired with a zesty swordfsh tarama decorated the plate, along with refreshing pickled cucumber & cauliflower. The chargrilled BBQ flavour was delectable, whilst the accompaniments paired nicely too.
The Prawn Manti ($28) were incredible little egg pasta dumplings filled with minced prawn meat. The rich creamy feta matched the prawn wonderfully, with candied walnuts adding a brittle crunch. The rich burnt butter currant dressing was finished with tiny fried mint leaves. The pasta itself was silky smooth and melted in one’s mouth like delicate little petals on the tongue.The Pork Belly Baklava ($28) sounded outrageously decadent but naughtily good. Layers of pork sat between layers of filo pastry and date pistachio purée, crowned with a ridiculously salty piece of pork crackling. IAMWT founder Jen was looking forward to this, having enjoyed it at the chef’s previous restaurant, Perama. It was tasty and rich however very fatty, as is to be expected with most pork belly dishes. The four little pieces of baklava sat in a thick, sweet date and mastic sauce, achieving a sweet and salty combination of flavours. This dish is definitely not for the faint hearted, proving extremely indulgent and food coma inducing.
Our final dish was from the Large Plates section of the menu. Having dined previously, I can attest that the Eye Fillet of Beef ($57) with sliced roasted mushrooms, mavrodaphne thyme jus and olive oil potato purée is insanely good, decidedly one of the best steak dishes and jus’ I’ve enjoyed in a very long time. If you’re in the mood for splurging, I recommend opting for the Lobster Pasta ($95) with a generous portion of this mouth-watering sea creature in a sauce of butter, white wine, lemon thyme alongside spaghetti, tarragon and shaved graviera.Today we choose the Moussaka Circa. 1910 ($37) keeping true to the traditional Greek heritage with an all-time classic and crowd pleasing favourite. Layers of lamb braised in orange & cinnamon, with thick moist slices of grilled eggplant were topped with potato gratin and béchamel sauce. Rather than using mince meat, this moussaka used delicious braised lamb that had obviously been made with a lot of love and care, evident with the delicious spice notes subtly resounding in the meat. The thick layer of potato and béchamel was a tad bland but this was made up by the amazing lamb component and crispy light golden crust.
By this stage we were too full to fit a single mouthful in, so we sadly skipped on dessert. Bustling with business lunches, the lunch time rush had quieted down by the time we left. If you want to be transported to the idyllic Mediterranean paradise in your lunch break or for an evening of merriment, cocktails and good food this is definitely a great place for a wholesome high-end contemporary Greek dinner.
122 Pitt St, Sydney NSW
Photography by Jennifer Lam
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of 1821 Restaurant