260A Swan Street
Richmond VIC 3121
+61 3 9429 1460
Melbourne is home to the largest Greek population outside of Greece – that’s a commonly known fact, especially if you’re from Melbourne yourself. This means there are more Greek restaurants in Melbourne than you can poke a souvlaki at. In addition to having some excellent Greek restaurants, however, Melbourne does have its fair share of mediocre ones. You know the ones I’m talking about: white washed walls, greasy and unseasoned meat platters and plates of soggy fried calamari with chips. They’re boring, overpriced and uninspiring.
Not Salona, though. They’ve been in the hospo business since 1972 and continues to retain a strong clientele. When I was living in Melbourne, I took the availability of Greek food for granted. It wasn’t until I moved did I realise how much I missed it. So when my friend Thanh asked me what I wanted to eat for dinner during a Melbourne catch-up, I was quick to say Greek food. Our friend Brandon tagged along and he, too, was more than happy to sink into plates of meaty goodness. (though Salona also do some vegetarian options these days – mushroom pastitsio, anyone?)
The restaurant itself is warm and cosy, especially during winter. The best way to do dinner at Salona is to order a bottle of Greek red wine to share (we got the Enotria Land Cabernet Sauvignon, $95) and select as many dishes to share. Be warned: things can get a bit messy.
I usually shy away from ordering dips at restaurants. To me, $10 for some bread and a little bit of dip brings out the Asian tightassness in me. That said, I do love a good taramasalata (cod roe dip) and Brandon was taking quite some time to get here so up went my hand and soon after, some dip landed in front of us. Salona uses a mixture of white and red cod roe in their dip, before infusing it with lemon and olive oil. The dip was sensational and so was the warm pita bread that came with it.
By the time Brandon rocked up, we were ready to attack. Our first starter was the scallops, served with kalamata olive jam and mountain tea jelly (mountain tea being a Greek herbal tea). I loved how the team at Salona dared to play around with modern twists and this dish worked beautifully.
For the saganaki, I was expecting a neat wedge of saganaki in a pan and perhaps some prawns in a tomato and leek sauce on the side. Close, but no filo cigar. The prawns, tomato and leek were all baked inside the pan, which was closed off with some gooey kafelograviera cheese. It was decadent and oh-so-perfect given the chilly winter air outside.
As to be expected, there was quite a lot of lamb on the menu so we were good to narrow our selections to just two options. First up, the lamb ribs glazed in a lovely ouzo and honey mixture and served with skordalia. The ribs were deliciously succulent and their sticky sweetness paired well with the garlicky potato puree.
Then came the lamb shoulder, which had been slow cooked in a rich tomato braise. While it was comforting and tasty, I enjoyed the lamb ribs more – the flavour combination for that dish was way more interesting.
Of course, we had to order a salad to balance out all the meats. We ditched the ubiquitous Greek salad and went for the roasted beet salad, served with spring onion, walnut, grilled manouri cheese, house made pomegranate balsamic. I can’t really describe the salad as light but it was definitely tasty and would definitely stand on its own as a single meal.
In hindsight, the Angus beef (the last of the savoury dishes to arrive) was probably a dish we didn’t need to order as we were pretty much full at this stage. Still, we weren’t going to say no to trying some beef ribs – especially since it was served on a pea and herb skordalia, something that I was curious to try. Put simply, they substituted the potatoes for peas and garlic for herbs. As a result, the puree was delicious but definitely lighter on the stomach than the traditional potato version. The beef ribs themselves were cooked in a rich tomato stew, very similar to the lamb shoulder so there was a bit of déjà vu happening. It was a nice dish but like I said, something that I could have happily passed.
We were ready to split but when our waiter came around with the dessert menu, telling us that the galaktobouriko was ‘really good’, well, how were we to say no? FYI, galaktobouriko is a type of semolina custard that’s either baked with filo in a shallow dish or wrapped in filo pastry and served individually as fingers. In this case, we got the shallow dish option that came with a LOT of vanilla bean custard. The custard was lovely, though I was hoping for a more even ratio of custard and filo to even out the richness. The lemon and cinnamon fused syrup on top did help a bit though.
In Melbourne’s Greek restaurant scene, there are a lot of hits but just as many misses. As for Salona, I liked some dishes better than others but I would definitely class this one as a hit – and one that I’d definitely return to again.