I get asked for restaurant recommendations a lot. As the self-appointed ‘foodie’ among my peers and relatives there is a lot of pressure on me to suggest somewhere decent. But I have no hesitation recommending Hellenika at The Calile; it has an interesting wine-list, uncomplicated tasty food, and a space you will enjoy spending money in. Above all, it’s reliable. You know you’ll get a great meal.
On Sunday lunch, the place is almost full. The outside dining area is spectacular; loads of natural light, and the curved balconies of The Calile set against blue skies and a smattering of fluffy white clouds. The dining tables are simply dressed with wine glasses, cutlery, and a small olive tree. We sit adjacent to the hotel pool that is surrounded by cabanas and umbrellas. This doesn’t feel like Brisbane at all. This could be California, L.A.
You can choose á la carte, or opt for one of the four banquet options, ranging from $68-88 per person. We splurge on the $88 per person option.
The wine list is extensive with choices aplenty from Greece. A knowledgeable sommelier is on hand to guide you through the list, and he persuades me to have an excellent dry Greek rose.
An amuse bouche of fish soup is thick and lemony. Delicate slices of kingfish come next, showing just how good fresh produce can be when it’s treated simply. Then a cream-coloured taramasalata descends – hard to consider it relates to the bright pink dip which usually springs to mind – along with some of the lightest, fluffiest bread I’ve ever eaten. I’d return to Hellenika for the taramasalata/bread alone.
Zucchini chips aren’t on the banquet menu but due to word of mouth we are obliged to order a half-portion. A decent serve arrives; the batter is tempura-like, light yet utterly crisp. They make their way into the tarama.
More excellent dishes follow – all show restraint. This is food that’s ridiculously simple, yet you’d be scared to stuff it up at home because you question, it’s that simple? Owner Simon Gloftis is a mad genius.
Falling-off-the-bone slow baked lamb shoulder with potatoes needs the accompanying Greek salad to offset the richness. The lamb is demolished with ample encouragement from those at the table who are too full for another bite but don’t wish to see waste.
After such a rich dish, a serving of fresh watermelon is much needed. It’s joined by small slices of baklava and galaktoboureko.
Just as we finish dessert, the waiter informs us we received the desserts from a different banquet and she kindly breaks this news with halva ice-cream, while adding the bougatsa is on its way. Sadly we decline the bougatsa saying there’s no way we could get through it all but there’s always room for ice-cream. It’s welcomed news when we are told the bougatsa will be packaged for us to enjoy at home.
Later that night we warm the bougatsa, and while consuming it, marvel all over again about exactly how good this restaurant is.
Hellenika at The Calile
Verdict: Simplicity at its finest