Fluffy white bread? Check. Salty dips? Check. Slow-cooked lamb, fresh salads and plentiful carafes of wine? Check, check and check. Hit Greek pop-up Kafeneion feels instantly at home in its new location at The Melbourne Supper Club.
Con Christopoulos and Stavros Konis’s Athenian-style tavern began as a temporary pop-up to tide things over at empty cafe site Self Preservation (which was owned by Christopoulos). It was such a success, the party will now continue indefinitely at Christopoulos’s buzzy late-night lounge bar around the corner.
The narrow space above The European and below Siglo bar has seen many big nights since launching in 1998. It’s real “if these walls could talk” stuff, with a dramatic painting of the Columbia Pictures logo presiding over well-trodden floorboards, racing green carpet, plush red lounges, wooden ledges lined with wine bottles, and an expansive window framing Parliament House.
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There’s room for up to 100 diners on tightly spaced tables covered in crisp white tablecloths with bentwood chairs, and a private area on a mezzanine sitting above the action. It’s ready for a party with retro tunes on the stereo and plenty of ouzo, classic cocktails and flowing wines.
The menu is almost identical to the previous offering, with crowd favourites such as fried sweetbreads, spicy cheese croquettes, crusted meatballs pinging with oregano, and hot fava bean dip all making an appearance. Mains come in small or large sizes and include Greek favourites such as spiced chicken with risoni, braised pork with lemon, and a fish of the day, plus accompaniments such as hand-cut chips, bright salads and crumbly feta available in 100-gram blocks. For dessert, try sticky baklava or orange filo cake with misshapen scoops of house-made ice-cream.
There are two new additions to the menu so far: traditional baked tomato filled with herbed rice, and tender sheafs of dry cured beef with chunky black olives and fresh fennel. Supper is a nightly fixture, with Greek soups and other snacks available until 1am.
Christopolous attributes the success of the pop-up to a few key factors. “It’s a flexible offering, it’s affordable, it’s romantic, and it’s driven by some good-hearted people. So the idea is to recreate the magic in a space that has its own magic,” he told Broadsheet last month.
So far, mission accomplished. And as for what’s happening at Self Preservation, the hospo legend confirms it will become a high-end sushi train later this year. With his magic touch, it’s likely to be another hit.