Calombaris' original Hellenic Republic restaurant sold, to become American barbecue joint

Inside the original Hellenic Republic restaurant in Brunswick East.
Inside the original Hellenic Republic restaurant in Brunswick East.  Photo: Supplied

Three of 12 restaurants up for sale after last week's collapse of George Calombaris and Radek Sali's Made Establishment have found new operators.

And while many hoped newly opened Crofter Dining would go to chef Matt Wilkinson, he has had to bid the venue goodbye, having failed to reach a deal with the landlords and administrators. But there's a small silver lining.

Wilkinson's friend Andrew Kavanagh, of Fitzroy North's barbecue super store the Que Club, has taken the site, which until December 31 housed Calombaris' Hellenic Republic, and Crofter Dining's signature dish will live on.

The Crofter restaurant site has been taken over by Andrew Kavanagh from The Que Club.
The Crofter restaurant site has been taken over by Andrew Kavanagh from The Que Club.  Photo: Simon Schluter

Kavanagh and Wilkinson have been working together for two years to create a line of low-waste barbecue fuels, in line with Wilkinson's sustainability bent. With Kavanagh's Fitzroy North lease due to end, the suggestion was made he take the Brunswick East site.

The Que Club, which sells Big Green Egg barbecues, offset smokers, rubs and specialist charcoals to grill enthusiasts, currently serves American-style barbecue a couple of nights a week. The same operation will slot into the Lygon Street premises, where Wilkinson' briefly (and successfully) championed radiant veg, by mid-March.

The rear dining room will become the retail space, with the front area becoming a barbecue bar, serving smoked meats. Wilkinson will consult to bring a bit of his pro-veg ethos to the table and he is also gifting the kitchen Crofter's instant signature – the devilled chicken hearts and eggs on toast.

Matt Wilkinson recently opened Crofter in the former Hellenic Republic restaurant in Brunswick East.
Matt Wilkinson recently opened Crofter in the former Hellenic Republic restaurant in Brunswick East.  Photo: Annika Kafcaloudis

While Wilkinson is disappointed and exhausted by the events that saw his and his team's efforts to open the restaurant in mid-January evaporate within weeks, he is relieved Kavanagh has pledged to support the small suppliers Wilkinson had brought in for Crofter.

The Que Club will open at 434 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, in mid-March.