The first thing you notice when you walk into The Hellenic, is the smell of the amazing food cooking while staring at the slow-moving rotisserie. The famous, delicious and authentic Greek food is like dancing Zorba in your mouth, you can’t resist it, you enjoy it too much and don’t want it to end.
For owner Theo Travlos, cooking within the family has been a tradition for years . “Food in my family has played a big role and it is very natural for us,” as his father is a chef and his mother, of course, a great cook, so he has learned a lot from both of them hence why they opened up The Hellenic, Theo said.
The Greek eatery that first opened in Brighton on Boxing Day 2014 and most recently their Hurstville rooftop store on Boxing Day 2015, is basically a showpiece, a journey of their philosophy of cooking. They do more than just Pites, they incorporate traditional old style cooking techniques which has been passed down in the family for generations, making The Hellenic special and unique.
The inspiration behind the name “The Hellenic” came from the certainty that Theo wanted the name to be something that was Greek but also westernised. “So we wanted something that resembles Greek, sounds Greek, but isn’t too Greek and we sort of think we hit the jackpot. It is short, brief, simple, unique, Greek without the Greek price tag and we wanted to incorporate some colours that are Greek hence the blue and white” Theo states.
Both shops have taken a Mykonos/ Santorini theme, with the whitewashed walls, a lot of blue and also incorporating a few food products from Kefalonia, an island Theo is from and also Crete. Theo mentions that “all machines come from Greece, we brought from there as we believe Greeks are the best at cooking lamb and therefore they use the best machines.”
What makes The Hellenic different to other Greek eateries is they're traditional, very authentic, fresh food that isn’t commercialised or processed. They mostly make everything themselves, apart from 1 or 2 items, and utilise traditional cooking methods with products from Greece. Theo states that “nothing we do is already made. A lot of our items have a lead time, if you order a ‘pageto’ (souvlaki skewers) it will take 12 mins, a ‘bifetki’ (greek meat mixture with stuffed cheese) 12 mins, they aren’t processed and not commercialised. You get that authenticity, you get those traditional flavours, that is what sets us apart for the rest. Good quality food has a wait time.” And because of this Theo believes, people keep asking him whether George Colombaris owns The Hellenic, taking such a question as a huge compliment.
The meat that is devoured at the Hellenic is marinated, and at both shops, you can see it on the rotisserie and hand cut on site. The Hellenic orders the meat in from scratch, marinate it and set it aside to sit in flavours and the aromas overnight, before cooking it the next day which can vary from 3-5 hours. The process is quite lengthy, takes a couple of hours each day, but there is a dedicated team who do it. Theo notes that “on some nights when we are really busy, we may get into a period in the night where we just run out and we can’t put any more on cause the preparation takes a bit of time. We try to cater to that, but our food isn’t ready in 20 minutes. When you are producing something that is very traditional, you gotta try to forecast the quantities, but we see our customers see the difference here.”
Theo told us that everything on the menu sells and is very popular, but there are some standouts. The slow cooked lamb- Mr. Karagiozis (lamb, tzatziki, Hellenic slaw, tomato, red onion, chips, and pita) is very popular, the name is catchy which has a lot of people talking, the Maga plate/pita (freshly made beef with halloumi cheese on the inside or kefalograviera cheese is also used sometimes) is also very popular as it is a very authentic dish to prepare with a very olden style recipe and lastly the marinated octopus- one of the best going around, sells very well.
It’s not just the food that is unique, but also the shop fitting and mural on the back of the Brighton Le Sands shop, which tells a lot of history about how the Family came to Australia. It paints a story from how Theo’s father left Greece as a young boy who couldn’t speak English and had no money, was first told to get onto a plane that flew to Chicago in America, before he got onto a boat in America working as a washer/Kitchener. This boat sailed around the World, stopping off at different points- Japan, Amsterdam, Ireland, Singapore and after being on the boat for 3 and a half years, he came across Sydney, saw what he liked and got off. The mural paints a bit of where Theo’s dad left, various ports, stamps, passports, and places he visited, everything incorporated in a so-called journey.
For the future, Theo said “we don’t know what the future holds, we may franchise, we may open up in Greece, we may open up in Miami, who knows what we will do… we got some other bigger groups who want to work with us.”
The Hellenic Brighton-Le-Sands
A: 301 Bay St, Brighton-Le-Sands NSW 2216
The Hellenic Hurstville
A: Westfield Hurstville, Park Rd, Hurstville NSW 2220