Demitri’s Feast – Richmond – Saturday 29 April 2017 – Dinner

Feta, honey and figs
Salmon, fennel and celeriac

Transformations don’t always work. There was a famous one in Sydney very recently where Rockpool turned into Eleven Bridge and closed in the same breath. Having been a customer here at Demitri’s Feast for a number of years, I know why this significant transformation will work.

There is more than a couple of reasons, but the two most significant are custom, and experience. Demitri himself has many terrifically loyal customers and I find it impossible to know whether they were friends through the old cafe, or independently. After 20 years of operating cafes, he decided a change was needed and turned Demitri’s Feast from a daytime cafe, to a late morning to late night mezze bar. Ask anyone in hospitality and deciding to go back to working nights is not a decision taken lightly.

Greek salad

The cafe naturally had to be fully renovated to be true to the new formula. The Richmond premiership posters are gone, along with the classic cafe counter, and bright tones. Now there is a tasteful bar, featuring tanned wood. There is more seating inside, using stools to make best use of the smaller space. Outside has been updated too, but keeps the same feel, though I have chosen to sit inside both times I’ve dined here.

Calamari

Over those couple of times, both alone, and with Catherine too, every dish I’ve tried has been good. There are selections of both smaller and larger share plates. Of the smaller plates, the broadbean keftedes stand out as both delicious and surprising. Demitri himself recommended them and he was right. They are full of flavour, the broadbeans obviously enhanced with a variety of spices. A combination of feta, honey and figs, is generous. Initially it looks like a lot of feta, but we seemed to keep coming back for more. More intricate is the salmon, fennel and celeriac offering, which pays attention to the subtlety of the salmon, enhancing it with a scattering of fennel.

Chicken skewers

On our way to the more substantial offerings, there is a Greek salad that is exactly the way it should be. Tradition dictating its make up, and it is particularly pleasing to see no lettuce being used as a filler. The calamari is a good size, plenty of golden, briefly fried pieces. The chicken skewers are given a good dose of spice, and are cooked beautifully over a flame. They are a highlight from the larger plates. So are the lamb cutlets, which find the right level of cooking, and again are oozing in flavour.

Lamb cutlets

Demitri’s is offering a collection of simply cooked meats, done well, and a bunch of smaller dishes that show a bit more subtlety and technique. This formula works, and this mezze bar is not looking to change it. There is a well constructed, reasonably diverse list of wine and beer, including a lager that Demitri’s brews themselves. There is no particular zone for each of the floorstaff so you see them all a number of times. Coordination is not so important as the dishes arrive in a dispersed fashion and you are never long without a drink.

Greek salad

The only pain point, and I use this literally, is for people who are not tall using the stools. There might need to be a rethink on them as shorter types like Catherine and I were in a bit of discomfort after the first 45 minutes. It is an easy fix by dining outside, but I do like the atmosphere of being near the bar.

Broadbean keftedes

It is normally a risk to change up a good formula, and let go of the amazing margins on coffee. In this case I am sure it will be a success. Demitri’s Feast is offering a great range of mezze and drinks, with a warmth of hospitality. It is a place where you can go regularly without breaking your budget too.

Demitri's Feast Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Demitri’s Feast – Richmond – Saturday 15 November 2014 – Breakfast

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One of the great things about Melbourne cafe life is the ability to frequently have a brilliant breakfast without any associated wait. Sure, there are places like Proud Mary and Chez Dre that are unlikely to ever subside in their popularity. But there are also places like Demitri’s Feast that were once the darling of the cafe scene which now you can get straight in (or close).

Demitri’s Feast has not changed. It is more a function of the dynamic scene that sees new cafes open up on a weekly basis. In Richmond it is a case of being extremely spoilt for choice. It is more which cafe is the best on the block, rather than the entire suburb!

I’m not sure of the history of the proprietors of Demitri’s but what I do know is that they were born to run a cafe. Whether I go in early on a weekday, at lunch on a Wednesday, or for breakfast on the weekend, there is a friendly and comfortable environment guaranteed. You are treated like an important customer whether the cafe is full or you are the only one there enjoying an afternoon coffee and Turkish delight. I’ve made this assessment having been here for different reasons at least 15 times.

Today we arrive late morning and find there is one last table for two inside. Knowing how good the vine tomatoes are here that is always part of my order. The coffee is good without being the centrepiece. The tomatoes on the other hand taste like they are from Italy or Greece. I haven’t asked, so I’m not sure if there is a secret, but as long as the tomatoes taste incredibly fresh and sweet, I’ll continue going back for them.
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I order the scrambled eggs which have feta mixed through adding even more fluffiness. The sourdough toast is delicious, as is the bacon. Catherine goes for the smashed avocado, which comes with bacon, a poached egg, and those gorgeous confit cherry tomatoes. Both dishes are fantastic classic Melbourne breakfasts with that extra touch you expect from the top cafes.

I realise I’m giving Demitri’s Feast a big wrap. It is now part of the Richmond cafe scene, in a nondescript part of Swan Street that has seemingly built up around its success. It has personality. Whether it reminds me of one of those restaurants in Europe where you are treated like family on your first visit, or whether I am just a huge fan of the tomatoes, the equation here makes complete sense to me.