Angie Giannakodakis’ face will be one familiar to Melbourne diners. For five years she gracefully helmed front of house for George Calombaris at The Press Club and as co-owner at Hellenic Republic. Respected equally for her impressive knowledge of Greek and old world wines as for as her legendary hospitality – Angie is one of a now-rare breed of old school professional, whose warmth and authenticity is undeniable and instantly felt. Expat Brit, Holder has a similarly impressive background in high-end dining, coming to Epocha after stints at The Press Club, Rockpool and Greg Malouf’s MoMo. On the floor the pair invoke the spirit of real-deal service – that elusive combination of charming informality, razor-sharp attention to detail and impeccable timing.
What’s also evident here is that Giannakodakis, Holder and the entire team at Epocha are wholly invested in the business and visibly passionate about what they’re creating. It feels like family, and as a diner you’re invited into the fold – in the best possible way.
Under the direction of head chef Mick Bolam (ex-Sanctuary, Hunter Valley) the broadly European menu focuses on shared dishes with humble origins. “It’s the kind of food we like to eat on our days off,” says Giannakodakis. Thanks to the heritage of the owners you can expect to find plenty of peasant-style Greek and English influences, as well as a fair representation of classic French fare (think charcuterie and serious cheeses). “We didn’t want frills. We wanted the food to be simple and beautiful, food that our parents can understand,” she says.
Wines too, are a focus and the list is kept brief and Euro-centric with an eye on biodynamic and lesser-known boutique producers. Giannakodakis and assistant sommelier Danny Gibson are happy to back all of their wines and to guide with suggestions on some of the more obscure offerings.
The double-storied terrace - originally built in 1884 a residence – has undergone an impressive refit under the direction of Melbourne designer Rabindra Naidoo. Together with builder Russell Noonan and his team, Naidoo has transformed the space while retaining the high ceilings, tall windows and large proportions typical of the Victorian era. Upstairs, Hannah’s Bar, the adjoining Maybelle Room and spacious open-air balcony welcome any-time casual drinks, small plates and languid conversation over games of backgammon.
Downstairs, the dining room manages to feel at once grand, moody and comfortingly rustic. Original unpolished floorboards, Greek taverna seating and mismatched vintage crockery lend a unique air of romance and tradition, while imposing multi-armed steel chandeliers - also designed by Naidoo - are thoroughly modern. The back wall features a huge mural - an intriguingly beautiful and reflective bi-lingual dialogue between Giannakodakis and builder/visual artist Mia Messinger – and upstairs you’ll find similarly striking works by artist Jamie Boys including a detailed lithograph map of 1890s Carlton.
In its 100-odd years the building has seen numerous passages of time, various faces and countless tales. For the team at Epocha this latest incarnation is one that they hope to share with Melbourne and with it, a whole new history and many great stories.
49 Rathdowne Street, Carlton
(03) 9036 4949
Lunch Thurs to Sun from midday
Dinner Tues to Sat from 5.30pm