Two saints feature on The Chommery in a row! St Edmonds graced us with his virtuous presence in Prahran in the last post, and now precious Katherine has shown me a thing or two with a blessed new restaurant in Kew. Popular chefs George Calombaris and Shane Delia have pooled together their fathomless food and food industry knowledge to create this impressive establishment. Serving up a plethora of Mediterranean dishes inspired by a mixture of Greek and Turkish cuisine, I think St K’s is doin’ a pretty bang up job.
The street frontage doesn’t look like much, and it is a shame there is no outdoor seating or courtyard. Nonetheless, the location couldn’t be more perfect for a casual but mid-market eatery, like this, especially considering the lack of genuine competition in the Kew area. Locals and visitors alike seem pretty very happy with this new instant institution, which caters well for all people: young, old couples, insanely massive family gatherings. Surely many business minded restaurateurs will catch on to the suburb’s potential for reinvigorated eating and drinking, and places will sprout up like daisies
Step inside and you hit a pretty loud, buzzy atmosphere. The staff will greet you and walk you to your table that… guess what?! You have BOOKED. This strange, foreign word ‘book’ – sometimes know as ‘reserved’ – is not always a part of the vocabulary of many new places. But I called up St. K’s earlier this week, got the time and the day I wanted. Exhilarating stuff.
Exposed ventilation, hanging lights, white tiling, shiny wooden tables, open kitchen, massive bar and loads of people. These are some of the tell tail signs of what I call the ‘Melbourne Food Model’ (not to be mistaken for the slightly less savoury Melbourne University Melbourne Model). In Melbourne, some or all of these features seem to have become a formula to be followed by successful restaurants or cafes. If you include these features, you will look attractive to customers and they will come and try once. The challenge is to attract the repeat customers, the ones that come back for seconds, thirds, their Nan’s birthday, a corporate lunch, the odd desert and then dinner again. I am a repeat customer of St K’s: guilty as charged. The first visit was only a quick lunch with the boys, which I usually try to keep quite sedated in terms of eating. When the night comes around so does the appetite and the ordering shenanigans begin…
The Mythos beer ($9.00) was a great start to the meal. I became quite familiar with this particular brew during a trip to Santorini, Greece. It’s smooth and easily drinkable lager. If I hadn’t been with the family (that’s my Nan in the background) I could easily kick back and knock down a dozen.
Grilled flat bread brushed with olive oil and Za’atar ($6.50). Olives- poached in olive oil served with maltese fel fel ($8.00). The flat bread was soft and not too heavily spiced. It complemented the pumpkin dip (next photo) perfectly. The huge olives were the best ones – ultra Juicy.
Fez roast pumpkin dip made with honey and cinnamon ($8.50). This was an exquisite dip – great consistency; not to runny or to firm. Not to mention the serving dish was very pretty.
Under the Wood Fired Oven section of the menu there were four different pides. Others had toppings of prawns, peppered figs and Maltese pork sausage. We chose Pide number 4 with ground lamb, tomato, garlic, parsley, Aleppo pepper and lemon ($15.00). The pide had too many flavours to pin point exactly which you were tasting, but too be fair, this was a superbly easy dish for sharing; it’s pre-cut and there’s enough to try but not to feel stuffed either.
Wow. Turkish lamb dumplings with garlic yoghurt, sumac and dried mint ($18.00). Neither myself nor anyone I was dining with had ever seen dumplings like this. Most of us are used to the regular dimmies you may get from a bain marie, or served en masse in a bamboo steamer. This was quite a different kettle of fish. 30+ soft little morsels, each mouthful sized and served with a spoon. I recommend this dish for a group to try and experience something a little different.
Two Chicken kefta snack burgers (fish also available) in a sesame and cinnamon roll with mayonnaise and herbs ($6.50 each). These were slightly bland and dry. I could have just been unlucky on the night or maybe I’m too much of a harsh pr*ck, but my feeling is that these are more of a novelty than a must-try.
Grilled market fish of John Dory filleted ($34.00). These were easily divided among the team and tasted like what regular fish with some herbs on top tastes like.
Salad of ancient grains: seeds, pine-nuts, lentils, capers, currants and pomegranates ($12.5). This was my favourite of the two salads we had. I strongly attribute this fondness to the addition of pomegranate seeds. I know they’re hard to peel, but these definitely don’t feature enough in regular salads (or maybe just the ones I eat) and they add a hit of sweetness and tartness to the dish. This combo of ingredients was a great side and I would definitely order again.
Rice pilaf with dill, apricot, carrot and toasted pumpkin seeds ($9.50). The rice was nice. Relaxing. By this I mean the flavours were pleasant, as expected, but my heart didn’t skip a beat in gastronomical delight (yes, this does sometimes happen). But maybe that’s what you want from a side dish of pilaf?
This was the “Off the rotisserie” ($27.50), which is usually two different meats, slow roasted in house and great for sharing (unless you’d chom this alone – if that’s the case, respect). We ordered chicken and lamb served with a side of lemon and yoghurty goodness. The chicken was succulent and great, but, truth be told, the lamb was a little bit dry for my liking. The dryness is easily cured with a drowning of lemon juice and yoghurt.
Dessert was the Choc chip mousse with hot cherry jam doughnuts and whiskey jelly ($14.90). The waiter kindly suggested we add an additional extra two doughnuts. We obliged. We shared this among six people, which was a wise choice. A mouthful or so is all you need and I hope that you find some of the crunchy chocalatty/caramelly pieces dispersed within the mousse.
I’ve really grown to love the after dinner coffee. It can be a highly tactical decision if you have an event that you need your buzz for after the meal concludes. I choose the strong Greek coffee ($4.50), the other option was the Arabic. More expensive than a regular Melb caffeine hit but tasty nevertheless. Don’t forget your paying for the experience of not drinking the standard fare.
I’m confused with the scarily low urbanspoon rating this Saint has acquired over its short time in the world. ‘Each to their own’ they tell me, and ‘everyone can’t think like you Dr Chommer’. My feeling is that most will have a a pretty sterling experience. Like Hellenic Republic, another Greek-influenced Calombaris venture, the food isn’t complicated gastronomy – rather wholesome and delicious. The staff are attentive and comparatively to George and Shane’s other establishments (i.e. Maha) the pricing is quite reasonable. The serving dishes are all beautifully designed. Most importantly, this is a sharing place, so be in the mood for that. The more you share, the better.
Don’t forget to post your comments if you have been and let me know your view of the Kath.
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Mediterranean Inspirations (Greek/Turkish)
Noise: A full house becomes buzzing but you can still hear the others on your table
Bookings: Yes (Can you believe it?)
Suitable for: Family friendly
Dress: Casual to smart casual
Price: $35 – $45 per person
My View: A fabulous food hall with brilliant staff, simple fit out and wholesome dishes
Address: 26 Cotham Road, Kew
Phone: 9207 7477