238 Castlereagh St
IN AN EARLIER life (which translates as ‘when I was drinking for Australia’) one of my favourite long afternoons was to settle in at a South Yarra noshhouse called Remvi.
I no longer drink and it is no longer there on Toorak Road. I don’t think those two things are connected. (It’s since been replaced by Blossom Thai.)
This terrific Greek restaurant was run by a mad Richmond supporter named George who, at last report, had moved operations to Port Melbourne.
I remember Remvi so fondly because it was the first time I had really eaten great Greek food. My previous encounters had been too heavy, accompanied by too much noise, too much garlic and too much plate smashing.
My conversion was thanks to a friend, Marina Paul. I used to jokingly call her ‘a professional Greek’. She introduced me to scrumptious lamb cutlets and taramosalata -- and super-tender, slow-cooked lamb which made memories of New Zealand lamb seem like munching shoe leather.
I was reminded of that, fall-off-the-bone, succulent lamb recently when I dined at Alpha in Sydney.
This will sound like a strange digression but it makes the point:
I had Peking Duck at the Peking Duck in Beijing and it was not a patch on the same dish at Gilbert Lau’s Flower Drum in Melbourne.
always a temptation
Likewise, I have had lamb and octopus in Athens that was not as good as what was served up at Alpha.
We started with the taramosalata. Like nachos and guacamole at a Mexican joint, there’s always a temptation to eat too much of the white cod roe and pita bread. Almost impossible to resist.
Then, one of their signature dishes: a different-looking moussaka. They stack the eggplant and tarama on a bed of scallops. And it works a treat.
Reluctantly, I gave the spanakopita a miss. I correctly figured that I’d run out of room for the lamb if I indulged in the traditional spinach pie with leeks and feta cheese.
As it was, I couldn’t really do justice to the octopus with spinach and white beans.
I was shrewd to hold back. The spiced, slow-roasted lamb shoulder was amazing. With lemon and tzatzki and smokey-tasting roast potatoes.
And they spoiled me by giving me sticky baklava and other Greek sweets to take back to the girls at SKY where I was filling in for Paul Murray on PMLive.
The next time somebody says ‘it’s all Greek to me’ I’ll nod vigorously in agreement. Alpha, you Beta believe I’ll be back.