“Ask any Greek and they’ll tell you no one cooks better than their mum,” says Maria O’Meagher, owner of Aristotle’s, a new Greek restaurant in Neutral Bay (named after Aristotle Onassis). That’s partly why Aristotle’s steers clear of many traditional Greek dishes.
The menu, developed by chef Heydon Young (previously of La Goulue), is inspired by the diverse regions of Greece. The puffed haloumi takes its cue from Greece’s northern neighbour, Turkey. The salty cheese is made in-house and cooked under the grill until it puffs like a soufflé. It’s finished with pomegranate seeds, grapes and balsamic vinegar.
Aristotle’s’ spaghetti Bolognese eschews the traditional tomato sauce in favour of beef slow-cooked with Middle Eastern spices such as cinnamon and star anise. Made with Greek hilopites (square egg noodles), the dish is topped with a creamy béchamel sauce and cheese, and broiled to give it a toasted finish.
For an ex-architect, O’Meagher looks at home behind the bar. She shakes cocktails like the Athenian Ass, Aristotle’s mango-laced take on the Moscow Mule; and the Greek Goddess, a pink confection topped with a puff of pashmak (Persian fairy floss).
There’s an extensive menu of Greek craft beer and Greek wines by the glass. O’Meagher says, “I didn’t know how Australian customers would react to unfamiliar wines, but they’re really popular.” The Assyrtiko, a white wine made from a grape native to Santorini, has done especially well. Its dry, soft flavour is a beautiful foil to the sometimes garlicky, sometimes tart, always fresh flavours of Greek food.
The most well-loved creation of pastry chef Barbaros Seref, formerly of Turkish restaurants Efendy and Anason, is the Baklava Cigar – a reference to the cigar-loving Onassis. Served in a wooden cigar box embossed with the restaurant’s logo, the cigars are made from impossibly light, crisp pastry wrapped around custard, like a cannoli. “I like for guests to have a cigar after dinner,” O’Meagher says. “They think they’re too full for dessert, but it’s not that sweet and it opens up their appetite again.”
Inspired by Onassis’s famous yacht, Christina O, O’Meagher has designed a space with an exuberant elegance. White-washed walls reach up to a high ceiling where geometric orbs sparkle like a galaxy of rose-gold stars. Gilded touches are everywhere: the porthole mirrors that line one wall, the gold cutlery and gold edged plates. Framed photos of Onassis hang in groups on the wall as though he’s a cherished family friend or regular customer.
Shop 1, 24 Young Street, Neutral Bay
(02) 8969 6900