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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Africola – Adelaide – Wednesday 15 March 2017 – Dinner

Octopus

It’s great to be back in Adelaide. It’s a hot and dry day and I’m on my way to Africola for the first time. I rarely have high expectations when I don’t really know what to expect, but that is the case tonight.

Having never looked at their menu, and only having walked past briefly some time ago, how could I have such high expectations? It comes completely down to the hype surrounding this establishment. Relating this back to Melbourne the hype is Chin Chin-esque.

Chickpea salad

The restaurant is wide-fronted and has a wide entrance giving that casual breezy feel, especially when it is still over 30 degrees. There is plenty of staff, all on the hipster side of the ledger. They are enthusiastic and knowledgeable throughout, but they are also not passive on the upsell.

Peri Peri Chicken

The menu is designed to share and I recommend deciding for yourself. While there is a $65 feed me option, having a couple of meat dishes, a veg, and a seafood, went the distance to my mind. The veg dish was a mixed leaf with deep fried chickpeas, and it was fine, but you don’t win friends with salad.

Flank steak

The octopus had much more to it, with a great spicy dressing. The flank steak was on the less generous side, but was perfectly cooked, and came with a huge piece of bone marrow which made the dish in my opinion. The beetroot and other accompaniments were terrific too. Finally, the peri peri chicken was nicely cooked, and the wilted radicchio worked well with the smokey, and well spiced chicken.

This is an enjoyable restaurant, but I am struggling to work out why it is the subject of such praise. The dishes, designed to share, have been very nice, but not one has really wowed me. The service too, has been good, but there is some uneasiness there too. In some restaurants you immediately feel comfortable. Here there is that little bit of pressure when the waitstaff suggest something that you don’t wish for. It is not like they are unfriendly, but there is a slight uneasy feel.

Adelaide is going from strength to strength in terms of its restaurant and bar offerings. The depth of great places that I want to try one by one each time I’m here is only growing. Africola has been one of those places for a long time, and I probably need to give it another go. Sometimes you cannot help but have certain expectations, and they were perhaps overinflated this time around.

Africola Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Highgate Drink and Dine – Highgate – Wednesday 22 June 2016 – Dinner

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes za'atar harissa yoghurt

Roasted Jerusalem artichokes za’atar harissa yoghurt

It is becoming more accepted for restaurateurs to completely change their restaurant at the same location as they, or their customers, become tired of the current offering. It is not to say that the product in these situations is average, in fact the opposite is often the case.

One example is David Coomer changing Pata Negra to Fuyu for no apparent reason other than he felt like a change. The other recent example is Ace Pizza becoming Highgate Drink and Dine. More or less the same staff, at the same location, doing food that is almost completely different, in a restaurant that even has a different entrance. The fitout has changed enough to be almost unrecognisable, with the wood fired oven still used to full effect, but the kitchen now being hidden by a funky old school wooden bar.

Ace Pizza was initially a place I really enjoyed, but each visit was not as good as the last, until I stopped going after three meals. So it is not unreasonable that a freshen up was undertaken. The only critique of the makeover is the continued very dark lighting which is really just unnecessary. We all like low light but this must be the darkest restaurant I have been to in many years. Anything visual is a struggle, but most importantly, you cannot see the colours in your meal, meaning both the subtle and vibrant identities of each dish are impossible to detect.

Hogget confit cabbage

Hogget confit cabbage

Luckily, there is flavour and taste in the dishes that counteracts the loss of visual perception. The Jerusalem artichokes are beautifully roasted with za’atar, and work with the harissa yoghurt. The spiced carrots are just as well roasted, and work perfectly with the cooked-through dates, carrot leaf tops, and seeds, to form a delicious side or a meal in themselves.

The hogget (described as teenage lamb) has been smoked and roasted and is delicious. The belly in particular is the perfect balance of fatty flavour, and tender meat. The loin is still good, but the belly shines. The cabbage is a natural accompaniment, equally comforting as the hogget.

Serves are generous meaning that our reasonable attempt to completely finish the three dishes renders us unable to try dessert. Thanks to the helpful floorstaff we didn’t venture into the potatoes with ricotta and jamon, but I’m sure this dish would have been excellent too.

Spiced carrots tamarind dates

Spiced carrots tamarind dates

There are some weaknesses though. The glassware (stemless) is left over from Ace Pizza, and just doesn’t fit the new undertaking. The tables are not adept at sharing several plates, and feel like an afterthought. On the plus side, the wines are reasonably diversified, keeping interest to a broad palate. We try the Garagiste Chardonnay and the Tomfoolery Tempranillo which are both great with the food.

On the whole, Highgate Drink and Dine is a great place to share some quality food. The bar area is bigger than before, but the “Drink” part of the name seems a touch misleading given the venue really is more of a restaurant than a bar. Nonetheless the dining room is one of my favourites in Perth with the broad front windows holding your interest whether you are dining, or just passing-by.

Highgate Drink & Dine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato