Brisbane export Alex Xinis has returned home after years abroad (including a two-year stint at two-Michelin-starred restaurant Funky Gourmet in Athens and more recently as executive chef for Modern Greek Food Group in London). Closer to home, he headed up Melbourne Greek institutions Press Club and Hellenic Republic before launching his own meal-delivery venture, Almost Like Yiayias, last year. In short, he knows his bougatsa from his baklava.
Now he’s fronting Brisbane institution Nostimo inside The Greek Club as its new head chef in residence, stripping back his experimental cooking style to pay homage to the no-frills cuisine he grew up eating, both here and during his stays with family in Athens and Ithaki. He’s not reinventing the wheel, and he doesn’t need to. The expansive menu is stuffed with Greek classics, starting with snacks such as dips and pita, saganaki, baked feta, and cured yellowfin tuna plus heftier dishes such as whole lamb shoulder; octopus cooked in wine; grilled swordfish with ladolemono (lemon and olive oil sauce) and spanakopita. Sweets include galaktoboureko (semolina custard baked in filo), baklava and loukoumades (deep-fried honey balls available in a “traditional” style and a Snickers-inspired spin).
Xinis took five with Broadsheet to discuss his new role, embracing simplicity, his plans for the iconic restaurant.
What’s your new job title?
Head chef in residence.
Why did you decide to join Nostimo?
I guess you could say this is a full-circle moment for me. After years spent living and working abroad, I’ve returned as head chef in residence at the award-winning Greek restaurant Nostimo within The Greek Club – the same humble community I grew up surrounded by that’s grown to become one of the most iconic culinary and events venues in Brisbane. I’ve always loved getting incredibly creative with food but now I feel I’ve come away from overcomplicating food – like grinding a tomato into a powder – because when you have the most perfectly ripe, locally grown tomato paired with the most delicious grilled halloumi, olive oil and a glass of assyrtiko, the taste and experience is far more captivating. Especially when it’s shared with loved ones, a light-filled beautiful modern setting, and a service and energy that’s warm and meaningful.
What do you have planned for your new role, and what are you most excited about?
Although I’ve had years of experience across the world in Michelin Star restaurants, I’m just ready to strip back to my roots. I want people to experience Greek food with no frills – just simple, beautiful and wholesome cuisine. We have access to some of the highest quality produce here in Southeast Queensland and a community and culture that’s warm, vibrant and inclusive. Great service shouldn’t mean a heftily priced menu. Yes, there are great Greek restaurants in Brisbane. But our new menu will bring Greek food back to its humble roots.
What are some cool new dishes/ideas on the menu?
I can best describe this new menu as the closest thing to what Greek flavours taste and feel like. We’ve created a menu with some great standouts. We’ll be cooking up htapodi, which is octopus cooked in wine, and a lovely xifias, which is grilled swordfish. A standout will be the arni, which can be a half or full lamb shoulder. We’ve also got an assortment of accompanying dishes like our traditional spanakopita and feta bouyiourdi. For a sweet finish, there’s our indulgent traditional loukoumades – [available as] traditional honeypuffs or the more indulgent variety, our extravagant Snickers [version]. When you’re dealing with so many incredible choices, we’ve made the decision-making far easier with our new Greek banquets featuring all the leading dishes, shared just as you would in Greece.