It's out with souvlaki and ouzo and in with choripan and malbec at Williamstown's Hellenic Hotel, which in early November rebranded and reopened as Hotel Argentina, an Argentinian restaurant, bar and cellar helmed by chef Dan Szwarc.
Szwarc most recently ran the kitchen at Hellenic Republic Brunswick (he's also done time at Fenix with Gary Mehigan, among others) but left with the intent to open his own restaurant. When circumstances prevented it from happening, Made Establishment's George Calombaris offered Szwarc the keys to Hellenic Hotel.
Hotel Argentina is made up of three parts: the restaurant, Areco (named after the town north-west of Buenos Aires); a wine bar called Bodega; and Dan's Empanada Bar, which operates upstairs on weekends only. Hellenic's blue and white palate has been tuned to the colours of Argentina. The front space has been opened up and a few high-top tables installed.
The food is inspired by Szwarc's upbringing in Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires where the cuisine is influenced by Italy and Spain. "It's very Mediterranean so it's not completely different to Greek food, it just uses South American ingredients," he says.
On the menu are dishes like fried local calamari, a baby corn 'corndog' with salsa and cheddar, and a slow-cooked pork hock with green papaya and salsa criolla. There's also a big focus on meat and seafood cooked on the parrilla – think whole king prawns, spit-roasted chicken and different cuts of beef. As is tradition in restaurants in Argentina, the 29th of every month will be gnocchi day, with special seasonal gnocchi dishes on offer.
The Hellenic Republics in both Brunswick and Kew are also undergoing transformations. In Brunswick, Pope Joan's Matt Wilkinson will open Crofter Dining Room & Bar in early January, and there are plans afoot for a change of identity at Kew.
Open daily from noon-10pm at 28 Ferguson Street, Williamstown, hotelargentina.com.au.