Winter pop-up restaurant Kafeneion will remain open until the end of December after captivating Melbourne diners with its hearty, home-style Greek food.
Based on the casual cafes of Athens (“kafenio” is the Greek term for a traditional coffee house), the venture happened almost by accident. When Stavros and Alex Konis’s Richmond restaurant Salona planned to expand, their mentor Con Christopoulos offered them his empty cafe site Self Preservation to keep staff employed.
Initially the plan was to open a second Salona, as Christopoulos, best known for sleek wine bars such as City Wine Shop and The European “never wanted to do a Greek restaurant” according to Alex Konis.
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But the team decided to try the Kafeneion concept, and it struck an instant chord when it opened in May. The menu is nostalgic and unfussy, with fried sweetbreads, salty dips, free crusty white bread, slow-roasted lamb, bright Greek salads and carafes of wine. “We’ve had such an overwhelming response,” Alex tells Broadsheet. “The messages we get daily from people who feel so good to come here … The whole experience is just completely soul-warming. So we’ve decided to stay open until the end of the year in the current location.”
Kafeneion will reopen with a similar menu and vibe at a new venue in 2024, with a CBD site “98 per cent locked in”. The Self Preservation site will be renovated and Christopoulos will open his first Japanese restaurant there in 2024.
Meanwhile, many punters don’t know there’s a secret private dining room at the Bourke Street restaurant, upstairs past the kitchen, where backgammon and ouzo sessions have become the norm. “A lot of the older Greek guys have been going up there for their little boys nights,” says Alex. “People are coming back every single week. It’s old-school hospitality.”
70 Bourke Street, Melbourne
(03) 9650 0523
Tues to Thurs 4pm–1am