It is often said the best form of education is first-hand experience. What better way to immerse yourself in learning all there is to know about true Greek hospitality than growing up on the idyllic island of Kefalonia.
Yiannis Xenopoulos was born and raised in Kefalonia and spent most of his life on the little fishing village of Katelios. Helping his family in their restaurant and associating with customers and tourists from a very young age equipped him with the skills and interest that would see him excel in that field. “Year by year as I grew up with these experiences I discovered that working with people and providing customer satisfaction gave me both pleasure and money. I was then able to use my knowledge and skills on our restaurant and in other restaurants with great success,” he says.
He developed quite the reputation for himself and became sought after, working with top 5- star restaurants, hotels, and bars which led to securing management positions and successfully operating several top restaurants.
Six years ago Xenopoulos, like many others, made the move to Australia. “My grandma was born in Australia, so I had Australian citizenship, which gave me the opportunity to migrate here and improve my skills and my life,” he says. “I chose to migrate to Melbourne because, as we know, Melbourne has the most and best restaurants in the world. Also, Melbourne is the most livable city in the world.”
After managing Nikos Cakes in Oakleigh, and spending some time working in Sydney’s Black Star Pastry, it is with excitement that he finally opened his own cafe, Olive Lane. It’s been created with lots of love and dedication, and nothing pleases Xenopoulos more than being able to offer his customers a wide variety of authentic dishes and the top quality hospitality he is known for.
“The menu has been designed by Natalia Gaspari, who was recently awarded one chef hat for her Sydney Restaurant Ble Greek Kouzina, and the offering is modern Greek cuisine,” he says. “We do breakfast, lunch, all the Greek classic and modern desserts and make our own cakes, Greek pastries and pies.”
Dishes that have proved to be an instant hit so far with customers include Strapatsada Greek-style eggs, slow cooked lamb shoulder with lemon roast potatoes & fennel tzatziki, pan-fried fresh southern calamari with sweet potato skordalia, Greek-style kokkakia and Mille-feuille, as well as the galaktoboureko.
The architecture of the building served up part of the inspiration for the name. “It is like a long lane! It starts from one side of the road and finished on the other side of the back street!” Xenopoulos says. “We also named the shop Olive Lane because the olive tree is one of the most beloved, sacred trees. Its place is firmly rooted in Ancient Greek tradition and mythology from the goddess Athena and is the symbol of peace and friendship.”
Xenopoulos heaps praise on the Greek community of Melbourne, acknowledging their work ethic and the efforts they have gone to in order to keep their Greek culture and traditions alive in Australia. That includes filoxenia.
“Filoxenia is a concept of hospitality that we have all grown up with on the Greek islands,” he says. “It has to do with the generosity and courtesy we show to those who are coming from afar. I really want my customers to be happy and satisfied. The most important thing for me is my customers to leave Olive Lane with the real taste of Greek food and Greek desserts, and accompanied by great coffee and very friendly service.”
Olive Lane, 69 Doncaster Road, Balwyn North, Melbourne, Victoria