Gold Coast-born Jonathan Barthelmess has made a name for himself in Sydney with his wildly successful restaurants, The Apollo and Cho Cho San (as well as an outpost of The Apollo in Japan). Now he has returned to Queensland to unveil Greca, a stunning 210-seat Greek taverna at Howard Smith Wharves.
“The precinct has been buzzing,” Barthelmess says. “It’s a pretty special place, and [I love that] we get to be a part of this beautiful heritage-listed building.”
Barthelmess called on his childhood friend George Livissianis – who’s worked on all of Barthelmess’s restaurants – to design Greca. The old warehouse space has been painted white like a traditional Greek taverna, but there’s also greenery in the form of olive trees, custom-made straw furniture and some timber to complement the building’s existing structure. An open kitchen features lots of zinc instead of the usual stainless steel. “We wanted to make it feel more like a home than a commercial kitchen,” Barthelmess says.
The menu mostly revolves around the charcoal and woodfired grills. There’s lots of grilled seafood (sardines, octopus, calamari) and grilled meats (half or whole chicken, pork chop, lamb ribs), as well as plenty of traditional Greek dishes such as taramasalata, spanakopita, dolmades and a rare dessert from Barthelmess’s ancestral home called katoumari (smashed filo with custard). Barthelmess wants people to use Greca however they want and the menu reflects this flexibility.
“The thing with Greca is there are no rules,” Barthelmess says. “If you want to come in and have a Greek salad, some prawns and a cocktail, no problem. If you want to come in and have the whole shebang, that’s fine as well.”
The drinks list features three wines on tap – a white, rosé and red – available by the half or full litre. There’s also a 150-bottle wine list with plenty of Australian, French and Italian labels, as well as plenty of wines from Greece.
This story was originally published December 6 2018.