Georges Mediterranean Bar & Grill has long been a Sydney institution, a Greek waterfront restaurant with views of rocking boats set against the twinkling lights of Darling Harbour.
Georges Mediterranean Restaurant
On a special evening, author and TV presenter, Lyndey Milan, together with restaurant owner George Vardis, hosted a Greek feast featuring recipes from Lyndey and Blair’s Taste of Greece cookbook.
Lyndey and Blair’s Taste of Greece
Recently launched, the book follows from the television series where mother and son travelled through the Peloponnese on a culinary and archaeological adventure.
“I didn’t want it to be an old-fashioned Greek cookbook,” Lyndey said. “But for it to be stylish and to have a soul.”
And that was exactly how the evening progressed. Four courses prepared by Georges’ Executive Chef, Keith Higginson showcased dishes from the cookbook that were indeed a journey to the Peloponnese.
Blood of Hercules Cocktail and Craft Athens Lager
And what better way to be transported to Greece than with the Blood of Hercules, a delectable bold red cocktail served on arrival, a blend of Agiorgitiko (dry red wine), tequila, pomegranate juice, honey with pomegranate seeds for garnish. Craft Athens Lager from Craft Microbrewery in Greece was also served while Prawns Kataifi with skordalia whetted the appetite as guests mingled.
Mixed marinated olives, pistachios, almonds and pumpkin seeds
Wine glasses were filled with Lafazanis Moschofilero, a crisp white wine from Greece with floral and citrus notes.
“In Greece, they’ve realised that they can’t compete with cheap Chardonnay wines from Bulgaria,” Lyndey explained. “So they’ve applied modern wine-making techniques to indigenous varieties, such as the ones we’re drinking tonight.”
Greek wines have come a long way from the days of rough Retsinas and their astringent taste. Lafazanis Moschofilero is easy to drink and proved a good accompaniment to the Mezedes that followed.
The eggplant salad/melitzana salada is essentially an eggplant dip which they call a salad in Greece. The eggplant is roasted, peeled and processed in a blender with garlic, fennel seeds salt and chives. Served with grilled pita bread, the eggplant salad is redolent with garlic which makes it a moreish dish.
Grilled Greek Pita
Not a lot of meat is consumed In Greece, except on special occasions such as Easter, which leads to a variety of vegetarian dishes that pack fresh flavours and are easy to prepare.
Zucchini dill and mint fritters
Zucchini dill and mint fritters are an example of such a dish. Zucchini is combined with onion, dill, mint, oregano, flour, cheese, egg and herbs then shallow-fried into crispy discs that retain the flavour of the ingredients.
Chickpea fritters with a salad of rocket and raisins
Chickpea fritters with a salad of rocket and raisins are prepared with a similar mixture of ingredients, then shaped into patties before they are fried in low heat. Raisins soaked in a little sweet wine and rocket leaves add a contrast of flavours, peppery and sweet.
Barbecued squid filled with spinach and fetta (front)
The standout dish was the tender barbecued squid filled with spinach, fetta, pine nuts and herbs served with a drizzle of lemon juice – so utterly fresh and Mediterranean
All the dishes served were prepared from of the cookbook. Some are traditional recipes she has found along the way; others are her take on Greek dishes.
“What I loved about Greek food is that it is so accessible. It’s regional, seasonal, and affordable,” Lyndey said.
Much like the book which is divided into chapters that follow the seven episodes of the series, interspersed with historical vignettes and stories of the show, Lyndey took to the microphone in between courses to share stories and behind-the scene insights.
The idea for the television series was borne during a dinner with news presenter, John Mangos, a discussion that led to the realisation that none of the current Greek food shows centred on archaeology. John was meant to co-host the series, but when an election was called, it was suggested that he be replaced by Lyndey’s son, Blair, which ultimately developed into a lovely on-air relationship between mother and son that the camera cannot fake.
The evening was a reminiscent journey with Lyndey regaling guests with anecdotes and answering questions but not without tender and touching moments, with a homage to Blair, whose life ended far too early at age 29 soon after the filming of the series.
The main course of slow-roasted lamb that followed was exemplary of Greek hospitality. Generous pieces of pink and flavoursome meat falling off the bone were accompanied by lemon potatoes cooked in olive oil, a salad of black-eyed peas and herbs, and a village salad with cucumber capsicum, kalamata olives, red onions and fetta.
Salad of black-eyed peas and herbs
Village salad with cucumber capsicum, kalamata olives, red onions and fetta
Nemea Lafazanis Agiorgtiko
The main course and accompaniments were matched with a 2007 Nemea Lafazanis Agiorgtiko, an elegant medium to full-bodied red wine with fine tannins, further proof that Greek wines have undergone a revolution in quality that makes them stand on par with other fine European wines.
Cinnamon cheesecake with Samos-soaked muscatels
Dessert was a cinnamon cheesecake made with semolina and served with muscatels that have been macerated in Kourtakis Muscat of Samos, a sweet wine that was also paired with the dish.
To end the meal, Rozedes, traditional sweets with almonds and semolina from the island of Kythera were served with coffee.
Some photographs of the evening below:
The kitchen team with Executive Chef Keith Higginson (right)
In a closing remark, Lydney praised theway she has been embraced by the Greek community. “Meeting the people and connecting with them is what made it a special experience. In addition to the archaeology.”
Lyndey and Blair’s Taste of Greece is currently in its second screening on SBS ONE in Australia. The series is also seen in New Zealand, UK and has been sold to Russia, Hong Kong, mainland China and India.
Georges Mediterranean Bar & Grill
Gourmantic attended the event on Thursday 20 April 2012.
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