Greek food has been experiencing a resurgence in Sydney of late. Marked by the opening of several fine dining and casual Greek eateries offering delicious Mediterranean delights satisfying all tastes.
We were recently transported to Yaya’s kitchen to enjoy one of Sydney’s newest Greek restaurants, Platia Greek Taverna. Having indulged in a week of Greek food during a recent European holiday, I especially love this Mediterranean cuisine with its focus on fresh produce, wholesome food and flavour.
The restaurant offers a la carte dining or set menus available for $44 and $55. I couldn’t wait to sample the menu’s offerings and enjoy a Greek feast, because everyone knows that a visit to any Greek grandmother will never leave you hungry.Platia Greek Taverna is located in the revitalised Top Ryde Shopping Centre, with the shopping complex fast becoming a dining destination for families and locals. The restaurant’s name Platia translates to ‘town square’, especially appropriate considering the venue’s positioning in the heart of a piazza style courtyard.
I was instantly transported back to my recent Greek holiday, I vividly remember the squares full of restaurants where locals would gather to share meals. Top Ryde’s piazza aims to create this similar community atmosphere, hosting live weekend entertainment and home to a collection of restaurants including Platia, Bondi Pizza, Hurricanes Grill & Bar, Japan City, Coco Cubano, Smokkim Modern Kitchen, Red Spoon Thai and Outback Jacks Bar & Grill, to name a few.Award winning chef Greg Akridas, has come from Sydney institution Medusa Greek Restaurant, to lead the reins in the kitchen at Platia. Having grown up in Greece, Greg learnt first hand from his mother, the traditions of Greek cooking that have been passed down through multiple generations. Greg is a character in himself, and provides a charismatic personality, that in its own right demands a visit to the restaurant.Upon arriving we were treated to a collection of Mixed dips ($17). The dip mix included a fresh tzatziki, taramas (red caviar), favas (similar to hummus) with crispy grilled pita. After some mingling it was time for a masterclass with Chef Greg where we would learn how to make the famous Spinach Pie ‘Spanakopita’, Lamb ‘Kieftiko’ and Blue Eye Cod ‘Plaki’.The lamb and blue eye cod were prepared very similarly. In a large dish we combined an assortment of ingredients including tomato, carrot, red onion, potatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, thyme and fresh rosemary, finished with lashings of olive oil. These were encased in baking paper and foil, which in ancient times would have been huge fresh leaves that helped keep the lamb or fish remarkably moist.
Meanwhile for the ‘Spanokopita’ or Spinach pie, we layered thin layers of filo pastry, painting clarified butter between each. A mixture of spinach, fragrant herbs and feta cheese was placed on the edge and then folded into triangles. Greg tells us how traditionally this dish would have contained herbs such as dill and parsley straight from the gardens of housewives.As we were seated for dinner, Greg carved up some freshly baked bread. He used a traditional Greek recipe, created from ground red lentils and containing no yeast. The bread was comfortingly warm with small bits of dried fig that added a delicious subtle sweet component. It was served up with a vibrantly bright yellow olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt mix, perfectly complemented with green olives on the side.
Before we knew it, our first dish the Spanakopita ($14), we had helped to create earlier was on the table. It was ever so crispy, probably due to the plentiful amounts of butter sandwiched between the pastry layers. The cheese and spinach combination itself was full of flavor, proving very moist and tasty.This was followed by the grilled Kefalograviera Cheese served with fig jam and tomato ($16). The cheese resembled halloumi and the dish looked simple, yet comprised so much flavour. The kefalograviera was more gooey, tasty and far less rubbery than halloumi, but still providing a kick of saltiness- it is an absolute must-order for any cheese lovers out there. The freshness of the tomato offset the richness of the dish, and I loved the sweetness of the fig jam.The Prawns Saganaki ($22) was mouthwateringly good, containing prawns sautéed in a rich tomato sauce, ouzo, mild chilli, topped with feta cheese and served karvelli bread. Originally an island dish, it was designed to utilise the fresh seafood and home-grown tomatoes, with ouzo providing a new flavour to the sauce and gelling together all the flavours. Despite being a little oily, it was finished perfectly with the melty feta cheese.
Chef Greg then proceeded to serve up the first of the mains- with the lamb ‘Kleftiko’($33) we had helped to make earlier. Unwrapping the baking paper that helped to encase the flavors, the delightful aroma of lamb and rosemary wafted around the table, teasing our tastebuds. The lamb was moist and juicy, rich and satisfying.The roasted ‘Plaki’ fish ($33)- today a Blue Eye Cod fillet was served on a bed of smooth mash potato. It encompassed strong Mediterranean notes, with the capsicum, onion, eschallots, garlic, herbs, tomatoes and spices complementing the fresh fish. This was definitely a standout.The Moussaka ($28)- was also a key favourite with layers of eggplant, potato and lightly spiced lamb mince topped with a thick layer of béchamel and cheese. Sitting in a bed of lush homemade tomato sauce, it was served with an elegantly cut piece of eggplant on top to garnish! With the option of meat or vegetarian versions, I must confess I could have eaten an entire tray of both!
Greg describes how there is a vegetarian dish for every day of the year in Greece, and the menu offers a wide range. The ‘Gemista’ vegetables ($26) are stuffed oven baked tomato and capsicums. Inside is a delicious combination of rice, sultanas, currants, aromatic herbs served with tomato sauce. The taste of the garden patch emerges again, with a subtle yet wonderful dill flavour coming through. The sweetness of the tomato sauce, sultanas and currants pairs perfectly with the savoury components of the dish. This was accompanied by the most famous Greek dish of all- the traditional Greek salad ($16). Providing some freshness and lightness to break from the richness of the meal so far.
Next it was time for desserts, and we couldn’t wait. A dessert platter ($28) was served up containing three of their best items and a trio of ice cream. The Galaktoboureko ($12) was milk custard encased in filo pastry and proved truly addictive. The mandatory Baklava ($12) made its appearance alongside Whole Baked Pear ($12) with nougat crumbs and bitter orange caramel sauce. The trio of ice cream included masticha, baklava and loukoumi, all made in-house they were delectable with a perfectly smooth consistency. The loukoumi was rose flavoured reminiscent of Turkish delight, whilst the masticha or mastika is a favourite Greek spirit with a refreshing flavor. The Baklava flavor spoke for itself, with chunks of pastry offering texture and creating a delectable ice cream.At the end of the dinner, we sat down with Chef George and enjoyed some Greek coffee, which is definitely not for the faint hearted. We learnt about the fresh spices, aromas and tastes taught to him by his mother, that emerge in the methods and flavours of every dish. The Greek’s know how to feed you and no one will ever leave a Greek function hungry, tonight was no different.
Platia Greek Taverna
Top Ryde City Shopping Centre
109-129 Blaxland Rd, Ryde NSW
Phone: (02) 9807 3000
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Platia Greek Taverna