310 Brunswick St
Fitzroy VIC 3065
+61 3 9417 0222
Who would say ‘no’ to a hearty and lazy Greek lunch on a lovely Sunday afternoon? Not I! I, along with fellow foodies Shirley, Linda and Brad, may not have Greek grandmothers but I guess the next best thing would be to go to apparently one of the most esteemed Greek restaurants in town. Located in the heart of bustling Brunswick, Pireaus Blues has been touted by a few of my other foodie friends, the guys on 3AW and the people behind The Good Food Guide. One of my friends even suggested that their lunch banquets ($29.95 p/h) were not only cheaper but better than the ones they dish out at Hellenic Republic. There was only one way to find out…
Rocking up at 1pm to an empty restaurant made me slightly apprehensive but once a big, fat Greek family of 10 billion rocked up to crank up the atmosphere, I gave a big sigh of relief. Waters were poured and menus were given but what, no lunch banquets on the menu? All we could see were a la carte items, but no sign of the $29.95 express lunch banquet that was advertised on their website. We asked a middle-aged waiter about it. ‘Sorry, we don’t have a lunch banquet menu,’ he said. ‘But we saw the menu on your website,’ Linda insisted. He further denied the existence of such a menu before Brad whipped out his smart phone and lo and behold, there it is. ‘Wait, lemme see that!’ exclaimed the waiter, before running into the kitchen with Brad’s phone in his hand.
As the minutes went by, so did Brad’s nervousness (‘He’s probably going to swap my phone for a crappy Nokia brick.’). Finally, the waiter came back and said, ‘Yeah, okay you’re right. It does exist. We can do it. BUT I’ve been working here for four years and no one’s ever ordered the lunch banquet before.’ Yeah, shut up. Also, he also said something about Pireaus Blues being the best Greek restaurant in the state or something to that effect. I can’t remember what the context was but we all thought it was a rather lofty statement to make when things were not even off to a good start. But anyway, Linda, Brad and I had the lunch banquet while Shirley decided to be different and order an entree of calamari and a moussaka for her main.
We started off with a quartet of dips. Starting from 12 o’clock and going clockwise, we have your standard tzatziki, a lovely eggplant dip, a luscious skordalia and a fair taramosalata. The lovely, warm and slightly puffy pita bread that came with the dip was delicious.
Next, we had the loukaniko (Greek sausages), which is my favourite sausage behind the Turkish sucuk. And the bratwurst. And the chorizo. It was lightly chargilled with a hint of chilli to give it a slightly fiery kick. Sliced red onions and a wedge of lemons completed the package. So simple, yet so effective. We all loved it.
Our final entree was a grilled saganaki. They used a slice of kefalotyri cheese instead of my preferred haloumi which was a slight downer for me. Plus, it was dry. Then again, given how much I LOVED the saganaki at Hellenic Republic (haloumi and figs = soulmates), I guess any other saganaki we try at other restaurants will always pale in comparison.
The calamari kicked off the procession of mains ($15.50 for the entree-sized version that Shirley paid for). Each calamari tendril was lightly coated in flour before being plunged into the fryer to come out all light and crispy with the inside being deliciously tender. Shaved fennel and dill topped the tangle of calamari while our friend lemon wedge made yet another appearance.
Next, we had the lemon lamb, apparently a signature dish. It was also apparently slow-cooked but I thought the lamb was a bit on the dry side. I mean, it tasted nice – it had a lovely tangy flavour which worked well with the natural juices of the lamb – but the texture was a downer for me.
On the side, we shared a Greek salad which was alright (I mean, what does one say about a Greek salad?).
For dessert, we shared a bowl of halva ice cream. The other dishes may have stuck to ‘safe’ Greek taverna territory but I was impressed with the ice cream as it was the only time Pireaus Blues showed SOME innovation in their dishes. Not saying that tried and traditional dishes suck or anything but given that most of the dishes we had over the course of this lunch were either okay or just ‘good but not fantastic’, I wasn’t expecting much from the dessert. I loved the ice cream, which had a lovely nutty tahini base and a lovely sweetness that was slight. The addition of semolina gave it a starchy texture while ground pistachios added a bit of crunch and extra taste. Delicious.
We realised, later on, that a glass of house wine was supposed to be included in our lunch banquet but we were never offered it at all. Not even when I ordered a glass of slightly-too-warm Heathcote Shiraz did they say something like “Oh, you get a glass of house red as part of the banquet.” Tools. We also realised that all the food above cost almost $90 in total which, to me, seems like a bit of a rip. Sure, we were satisfied but we were really expecting to be FULL – the portions were just too damn tiny. I can’t see myself going back here again. The food was alright (apart from the ice cream and the calamari which was amazing, and the sausage which you can just buy from Jonathan’s and grill at home) but nothing that was worth coming back for. As for the service? Forget about it. Best Greek restaurant in the state? Haha in your dreams, malaka!