238 Castlereagh St Sydney, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Wed-Thu, Sat 5pm-late; Fri noon-late|
|Features||Late night, Groups, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 8599 8970|
Frozen Greek salad. Please take a few moments to let those words soak in.
And once you have, please forget you ever heard them. Actually, forgive me for being presumptuous. Maybe you'll love the feta flavoured jelly (it's something akin to a savoury, cheese flavoured panna cotta) topped with salad-flavoured granita and candied olives ($12).
Maybe, like jazz, it's an acquired taste. True, George Calombaris did feature a Greek salad smoothie on his menu at the Press Club in the mid-thousands. But some things should be left in 2007. Like Crocs. And Avril Lavigne.
That's OK, there's plenty more on show at this upstairs extension to Peter Conistis' Greek restaurant, Alpha. And plenty of it's delicious. Like the popcorn sweetbreads ($12). Here, the delicate little glands are lightly battered, fried and rolled in popcorn salt. Once you pop, you can't stop.
And crisp chickpeas, fried till golden – the Greek answer to corn nuts.
Oh, and double plus yay for the moussaka for two – the ultra-comforting antithesis to that Greek salad. Here, a massive orb of lamb mince is stuffed into an eggplant and baked with tomato and bechamel till the whole thing kind of sighs and gives in at the table.
The thing is, Beta's been open for some months now, but still feels like a brand new operation. Drinks service is slower than is ideal, and glasses are filled as an afterthought. And despite the fact it's presented by the Hellenic Club with that menu from Conistis, there are very few Greek wines and spirits on show.
To the bar's credit, they whip up something juicy quick sticks when I ask for an ouzo-based cocktail (why are there so few on the list?), but it'd be great to see the team experiment with a few more Greek ingredients.
There are some interesting choices when it comes to the soundtrack, too. I can't remember the last time I listened to this much Jurassic Five while drinking this much ouzo. Maybe that's a good thing.
There's an opportunity here to really own it on the Greek spirits and wine front. All it needs is a little honing to take it from a beta to an alpha.
Pro Tip: In a hurry? Stick to wine – cocktail service is on the slow side.
Go-to Dish: Moussaka for two, $28.