Jimmy Grants

113 St David Street, Fitzroy, VIC

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The Bonnegilla Souvlaki at Jimmy Grants.
It's a wrap: the Bonegilla souvlaki. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Bust open the ouzo – we have a new title-holder for "Melbourne's best souvlaki bar". Am I exaggerating? Nah, I don't reckon.

It's opening night at Jimmy Grants, a cool, buzzy 36-seater by George Calombaris and George Sykiotis and partners, the Greek power-partnership that began eight restaurants ago, spawning the Press Club, Hellenic Republic, Gazi and more.

Jimmy's is jumping – with bloggers, reviewers, the social-media-savvy and locals who have watched the side-street warehouse transform from Peter Watson's spice shop into a reinvented souvlaki bar. There's the frisson of "celebrity". Diners' Instagram pics of "me and George" appear online. Calombaris and Sykiotis huddle in earnest discussion and look . . . is that nervous? "You're only as good as your last service," Sykiotis says.

The Age, Epicure. Jimmy Grant's eatery.Pic Simon Schluter 1 August 2013.
Drawing from Greek heritage and cherry-picking from its sibling restaurants, Jimmy's nails it. Photo: Simon Schluter

As you would expect, Jimmy's nails it, drawing from Greek heritage and cherry-picking from its sibling restaurants – white stools and recycled oregon from St Katherine's and blue tiles typical of '70s kitchens in Greek kitchens.

On the white-painted brick walls, street artist Dan Wenn has drawn a DC-3 aircraft and the Greek-owned Patris, the ocean liner that transported "Jimmy Grants" – Australian's rhyming-slang nickname for first-wave "immi" "grants".

Two long counters flank the room, with food-truck-inspired flip-up windows at the end. Order anywhere – at the fully licensed bar stocked with Greek beer, or at the kitchen, run by Travis Mcauley of Hellenic Republic.

"Jimmy's dimmies" hark back to the early Greek milk bar dim sims, but these are pliant parcels of chicken, cabbage and lemon zest to dunk in soy and olive oil.

Lush, spongy, wholemeal pita is made from a yoghurt starter and heated on the oil-slicked stone base of a converted pizza oven. Swipe some through not-pink taramasalata.

"When Greeks come into the restaurants and say, 'It's not pink,' I cringe," Calombaris says. "Tarama was never meant to be pink."

This dip – the same recipe as in the other restaurants – is whippy and smooth, made with Greek salted cod roe, stale bread, olive and lemon juice. Calombaris calls it the "umami of Greece".

Lamb shoulder, slow-cooked for 12 hours, is sticky and caramelised – have it as a plate with a lemon cheek for squeezing and tzatziki, or stuffed in the Mr Papadopolous souva with onions soused in vinegar and sugar, Dijon mustard, a few chips and fresh parsley.

Then there's spit-roasted free-range chicken, perhaps just a touch dry, which is lemony and marinated in oregano and olive oil. Go for broke and get lamb and chicken together in the Bonegilla.

Lovers of Hellenic Republic's cult "grain salad" – it's here, along with a prawn souva and a falafel number. But what about the pork, the traditional souva meat of Greece? "Kim-chi is fermenting as we speak," Calombaris says. When it's done, expect it wrapped with roasted pork belly and Kewpie mayo. Traditional? Not really, and he says the Greeks "bag me all the time" for messing with the authenticity of the old ways.

Darren Purchese of Sweet Studio makes the sweets – the squishy, dark-chocolate Wagon Wheel ($6), and honey-yoghurt choc-tops.

"We're going back to our roots," Calombaris says. "I grew up in the back of dad's fish-and-chip shop in Noble Park, George was in Keysborough. It's like the good old days."

Well, sort of. It's the new good old days, anyway. Viva souvlakia!

Do ... Stay tuned for Jimmy Grants in Ormond and the city in the next few months.

Don't ... Want to get off the couch? Delivery is coming soon.

Dish ... The Bonegilla. 

Vibe ... Modern-day Greek meets old-world souvlaki bar. 

 

 

Twitter: @ninarousseauor nrousseau@fairfaxmedia.com.au.


* Note: The original version of this review described the painting by Dan Wenn as a DC-10.

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113 St David Street, Fitzroy, VIC

  • Cuisine - Greek
  • Prices - Snacks and dips, $2.50-$6; souvlakia, $7-$9.50; plates, $15-$21; desserts, $5-$6.
  • Features - Licensed
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Daily, 11am-10pm
  • Author - Nina Rousseau
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Reader rating (1)

20 comments so far

  • I like souvlaki, so if i'm driving down johnston st, i'll definitely stop in for a taste.

    Regardless, there is no way they will taste as good as my half greek australian wife's souvlaki's.

    My wife makes the best souvlaki, 'cos she makes it all from scratch. Well, she doesn't raise the sheep, or make the pita, but she does all the rest.

    We would love some lambs in the backyard, however, boorandara council wont let us. Boooooo. For a bunch of lefties, they sure dont embrace sustainable living. At least they let us grow some herbs without a permit...yaaaayyyyy.

    One question, are these souvlaki's more Cyprian (like george c), or greek in style, and if greek, are they southern or northern greek style?

    These are important questions.

    Commenter
    Campbell
    Location
    at work
    Date and time
    August 13, 2013, 9:59AM
    • Yeah mate, and my mum makes the best roast lamb.

      Commenter
      bangrod
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      August 13, 2013, 11:08AM
    • Nobody can pour milk into a bowl of cereal like my mum. Best. Cereal. EVER.

      Commenter
      Yo
      Location
      Yo-ville
      Date and time
      August 13, 2013, 1:09PM
    • hey bangrod, unless she's Greek, I don't think so. This is the fundamental difference between your comment and Campbell's: he is in the in, that's why his questions are spot on; to you on the other hand mate, it's all Greek.

      Commenter
      lambman
      Location
      Date and time
      August 13, 2013, 2:40PM
    • I have some important things that over the years, I have learnt from the greeks and the macedonians.

      Lamb must only be cooked 2 ways. Very fast (cutlets on BBQ) or very slow (slow roast in oven, or on a backyard spit -4-5 hrs for an 18kg baby lamb)

      Whilst visiting greece a few times, I found the souvlaki's in southern greece, Athens etc, have chips in them. Like in the picture. (greeks do good chips, they double cook, and deep fry in olive oil) In one souvlaki bar near cntr of athens, some nutter put mayo in my souva, i almost choked.

      It must be tzatziki.

      In middle to northern greece, thessaloniki, Macedonian region, (home of that great bulgarian, Alexander the Great, there aint no chips in a souvlaiki. They serve them on the side. With lots and lots of beer. And bad wine. ( Greeks do bad wine. No
      matter what Aussie Greeks say, its mostly overcooked, porty stewed tannic rubbish.)

      Commenter
      Campbell
      Location
      Back at work
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 11:03AM
    • "It must be tzatziki."

      No. Garlicky yoghurt, not tzatziki.

      "Greeks do bad wine. No matter what Aussie Greeks say, its mostly overcooked, porty stewed tannic rubbish."

      Do your research. Plenty of excellent Greek wine to be had if you know where to look.

      Commenter
      Ariadne from Crete
      Location
      Date and time
      August 26, 2013, 12:08PM
  • We went there for lunch yesterday.
    Pros:
    Atmosphere
    Slow cooked lamb quality (one of the best i have had!)
    Great mix of flavors and textures between all egrediuents (lamb, tsatsiki, lamb, herbs, chips and bread)

    Cons:
    Very small serve
    Value for money
    Frozen chips

    Commenter
    CDelaire
    Location
    Collingwood
    Date and time
    August 13, 2013, 1:14PM
  • Sigh - owner is a TV celebrity and it opens in bogan yuppie territory so it automatically gains unwarranted praise and calls of "the best in Melbourne!"
    The real people in the know understand you go to Oakleigh for the best souva around.

    Commenter
    Dee
    Location
    Date and time
    August 13, 2013, 1:31PM
  • "Cyprian", eh, yep you're a credible on-line commenter. The term is Cypriot.

    Commenter
    Frizz
    Location
    Date and time
    August 13, 2013, 1:46PM

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